In 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell received a medical degree from Geneva College, making history as America's first female doctor. Unfortunately, no one trusted a female doctor enough to allow her to actually let her practice. It took almost 10 years before Blackwell was able to successfully open a clinic in NYC and draw patients—a clinic which still runs today as part of the New York Downtown Hospital.
When "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" hit television in the early '90s, no one would have thought twice about a female physician. Watching the show, however, viewers learned about the many challenges that the very capable Dr. Mike faced as a female in a male-dominated field—challenges that mirrored some of the real-like struggles of Dr. Blackwell.
Of course, being accepted as a female physician in the 19th century was far from Dr. Mike's biggest issue. She and the other characters on the show found themselves up against rattlesnakes, rampant disease in a time with few vaccinations options, limited supplies and equipment and a remote location out on the Western frontier.
As if that wasn't bad enough, Dr. Quinn and her associates were often caught up in struggles between the local Native American tribes and the U.S. Army—struggles that reflected real events of the period.
For more than half a decade, viewers tuned in to watch Dr. Quinn survive another day—and to see if she would ever end up with that handsome and rugged mountain man. Think you know everything there is to know about this series? Prove it with this quiz!
Jane Seymour was a last-minute pick to play Dr. Michaela Quinn. The actress found out about the series just a day before winning the part and committing to a five-year contract. No one thought the show would last with a woman in the lead, but it ended up being a huge hit.
On the show, Dr. Quinn leaves her wealthy family in Boston to settle out West and practice medicine. She chooses Colorado Springs, Colorado as her new home. The show is set in the late 1860s, just after the Civil War.
Joe Lando plays the mysterious Byron Sully on the show. After losing his wife during childbirth, Sully moved into the mountains. He lets Dr. Quinn live on his land when she first moves out West.
The show kept viewers tuned in wondering if Sully and the doc would ever get together, When the pair finally wed, they choose the name Katie for their new daughter.
"Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" is as much the story of the local Cheyenne people as it is of Dr. Mike and the town. The Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle is the one who dubs Dr. Mike "Medicine Woman."
When the doc moves to town, she makes friends with Charlotte Cooper. When Charlotte is bitten by a rattlesnake and dies, Dr. Quinn finds herself caring for her three children.
Loren Bray, whose wife Maude dies in the very first episode of the series, owns the local general store. He is also the father of the deceased Abigail Sully, which makes him Byron Sully's father-in-law.
As the medicine man for the local Cheyenne tribe, Cloud Dancing often interacts with the people in Colorado Springs. He is one of Sully's best friends and is married to a Cheyenne woman named Snow Bird.
Army General George Custer himself shows up in the first season, taking on Black Kettle and the Cheyenne. Cloud Dancing is held hostage in a tense standoff in the episode.
Fans of the show spent the entire first season waiting for something to happen between the doc and Sully. Finally, they share a kiss as the town throws Dr. Mike a party for her 35th birthday.
Born in New Orleans, Grace moves to Colorado Springs and starts a cafe with the financial help of Loren Bray's sister. She marries Robert E. and adopts a son named Anthony.
When the show begins, Myra is working for Hank as a barmaid—as a sex worker. She eventually marries Horace Bing and takes a job in a bank.
Preston famously invites poet Walt Whitman to town on one episode of "Dr. Quinn." The town learns a rumor that he may be gay, and even Dr. Mike has trouble with the idea, especially when Brian wants to spend time with Whitman.
Everyone knows Mr. Rogers for his classic children's show, but did you know he made a guest appearance on "Dr. Quinn" as a minister? He played Reverend Thomas on a season five episode, his only TV appearance as a fictional character.
"Dr. Quinn" offered a glimpse into the Army vs Native American combat that was so common in the 1860s. The Cheyenne military, known as Dog Soldiers, were a real force that was also fictionalized for the show.
There was no shortage of romance in Colorado Springs. Dr. Mike had five different men propose to her during the series, but she only married one—Sully.
In addition to his legendary music career, his line of chicken shops and his major acting roles, Kenny Rogers found times to appear in an episode of "Dr. Quinn." He played a Civil War photographer in the season one finale "Portraits."
In need of some perspective on her life, Dr. Mike received a visit from a ghost in the form of Charlotte Cooper in the season two Christmas special. The spirited Charlotte took the doc on a tour through her own past, present and future to help her look at her world in a new way.
In season two, Dr. Mike ran for Mayor, with a platform promising to ban sex work and alcohol. She ultimately agreed to leave those vices alone in exchange for voting rights for the women in the town.
Johnny Cash made his first "Dr. Quinn" appearance as Kid Cole in season one, when he briefly served as mayor of the town. He made several more appearances in later seasons, many alongside his wife, Sister Ruth, played by June Carter Cash.
Dr. Mike is shocked in the season-two finale when a man named Andrew comes to town. Turns out, he is actually her former fiance, David, who suffered terrible injuries in the Civil War. His return forces her to choose between Sully and her past.
Dr. Mike inherits some of her father's books in season three and plans to use them to start a town library. Upset because he is secretly illiterate, Jake leads a protest that includes a scary book burning.
In the season three episode "The Washington Affair," Sully is court-martialed and sentenced to death for desertion during his time in the Army. He later saves the life of President Grant and has his sentence commuted.
The oldest Cooper child, Matthew, falls for a woman named Ingrid. Their engagement is cut short after Ingrid is bitten by a rabid raccoon—which also kills Matthew's dog.
In season four, Dr. Mike takes Dorothy, Grace and Myra to climb Pike's Peak as she celebrates her birthday. Meanwhile, Robert E. is back in town being chased by a bounty hunter.
Matthew is named as town sheriff in season four but takes a bold stance when he goes on to ban firearms of any kind. He later teams up with a visiting Marshal, played by Willie Nelson.
Preston Lodge III first appears on the show in season four. He comes to town to manage the local Bank of Colorado branch and also has big plans to open a major hotel.
After going head-to-head with Army Sgt. O'Conner, Sully finds himself wanted for murder. The townspeople pretend he has died to help protect him, even holding a faux memorial service in his honor.
Dr. Quinn and her sister Marjorie spend a lot of time at each other's throats. Toward the end of the series, Marjorie becomes very involved in both the temperance and women's suffrage movements.
Colleen falls for fellow doctor Andrew. The pair marry in the series finale of "Dr. Quinn."
Following in the footsteps of her adoptive mother, Colleen decides to practice medicine. She graduates from the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania in the series finale.
The town faces a crisis in the series finale after a stock market crash leads to a run on the bank. Unfortunately, it comes out that Preston has been investing the money in the stock market and has no cash left to satisfy depositors.
Fans were sad when the show ended, so the cast reunited for a 1999 movie. In the flick, Katie is kidnapped, and Dr. Mike and Sully are forced to travel to Mexico to rescue her.
In the movie "Dr. Quinn: The Heart Within," fans see the cast reunite five years after the series ended. Colleen graduates from Harvard Medical School as Brian takes a job at the Boston Globe newspaper.
"Dr. Quinn" ran for six seasons from 1993 to 1998. The series spawned two follow-up movies in 1999 and 2001.