When I was growing up my year revolved around our Eureka Springs trips. I went specifically on a mission to photograph painted lady Victorian houses on Spring Street with my disposable cameras (oh the days gone by of winding the film too aggressively and ruining everything mid-roll). In my pre-adult mind, so free of the reality based trappings of real estate costs, I would one day have my pick of those houses. I would move in, paint the door purple, buy a cat, and although I couldn’t quite nail down my future profession, I waffled back and forth between dress shop owner and U.S. Marshal.
When I got home from these weekend family vacations, I developed my disposable cameras and then went through all my photos and chose which house I liked the best. It was always a tie between Fuller Cottage and the Pearl Hale Tatman House, Cozy Corners, although at the time I had no idea these homes had names. To me, they were the “yellow one” and the “blue and pink” one. But it was Pearl’s house, Cozy Corners, that always won out in the end. It was my favorite. There was something about the ornate gingerbread trim on the upstairs porch that made me feel welcome and warm. I would place the photo of Cozy Corners on the desk next to my bed, and that was that. I’d picked my future.
As it has turned out, I don’t live in Eureka Springs. I don’t live in a painted lady and I don’t have a cat. I’m certainly not a dress shop owner, and the U.S. Marshals would never take on a 37-year-old woman who might not adhere to a strict workplace code (I’m more of a rule-considerer than a rule-follower). Trust me when I say, this was all for the best. But my love for Pearl and Cozy Corners lives on.
Photo credit Eureka Springs Historical Museum
Pearl Hale came to Eureka Springs from New Hampshire in the late 1800’s. She was a doctor, young and unmarried woman. She wasn’t following her husband or family. She came alone to start a new life and profession in Arkansas. I smiled when I researched this, knowing that this bit of history lends credence to Eureka Springs having always marched a few liberal steps ahead of current times.
According to some sources, Pearl was the first woman doctor in Arkansas. Others claim it was Ida Joe Brooks given the close time frames of their lives. But the fact remains that both women, no matter which one was officially first, were trail blazers for women in medicine.
Pearl set up practice in the Duncan Block on Spring Street. Locals began calling her Doc Pearl. When I spoke with Stephanie Stodden at the Eureka Springs Historical Museum, she said that Pearl was well loved, and much needed, in a time when most communities were wary of female doctors.
“She was a great help to the women of the community, especially with maternity needs.”
Pearl married Dr. Albert Tatman and they built their home, Cozy Corners, on Spring Street. It was said to be the center of a vibrant social set, and eventually they adopted their daughter Daisy. Daisy would later attend the Crescent College and Conservatory, which is currently the Crescent Hotel.
Pearl continued serving the Eureka Springs community throughout her life, working even into old age until she passed away in 1945. I think it is particularly striking that 1945 was the same year Harvard Medical School finally accepted its first female student.
After Pearl’s passing her family and friends claimed that a “feather crown” formed above her head on her pillow. These “crowns” were actually tightly woven discs of feathers. Within Ozark and Appalachian cultures they were considered as a sign the deceased had gone to heaven, or was “saintly” in the life they lived. Whether the feather crowns were man-made or celestial gifts, no one in Eureka Springs doubted Doc Pearl’s saintly status. Her feather crown is still on display at the Eureka Springs Historical Museum. For more information please visit their website at http://www.eurekaspringshistoricalmuseum.org/.
Pearl Tatman House by Margaret Harrell
My love and respect for Pearl and Cozy Corners continues. One of my most cherished personal belongings is this painting by my mother, Margaret Harrell. It’s a beloved reminder of the city of my heart, and it even has my imaginary cat in it. It’s a reminder of the kid I used to be, and a reminder to never let go of that young girl’s enthusiasm for her dreams. It’s also a reminder of Pearl, a strong Arkansas woman who exceeded the limitations of her era and made a life and thriving career here in the Natural State.