petticoat_surgeon-300x119“Petticoat Surgeon: The Life of Dr. Bertha Van Hoosen,” an original play based upon the Rochester doctor’s 1947 autobiography, will be performed in May and June at Rochester College and the Van Hoosen Museum.

Dr. David Keller, dean of Rochester College’s School of Humanities, penned the play after reading Van Hoosen’s autobiography “Petticoat Surgeon.” Keller structured the play in a “reader’s theatre” format, which is accessible for school groups to both read and perform.

Dr. Bertha Van Hoosen at a dissecting table

Dr. Bertha Van Hoosen at a dissecting table

Born and reared in Stoney Creek, Mich., Van Hoosen received her bachelor’s degree in 1884 from the University of Michigan, and then in 1888, she became one of the first women to graduate from the university’s medical school. She practiced medicine until age 88, a year before she died.

Van Hoosen completed her autobiography, Petticoat Surgeon, in 1947, five years before her death. The book has been reprinted several times, most recently in 1994.

“Dr. Van Hoosen’s life was incredible, her memory must have been astounding, and she handled the pen as skillfully as she handled a scalpel,” Keller said. “It’s a story of struggling pioneers, women facing gender discrimination, traumatic births, tragic deaths, a wrongful murder conviction, international escapades, earthquakes, and I could go on! It’s been an adventure, reading and rereading Bertha’s book and keeping her language as much as possible as the story moves from page to stage.”

Hannah Wasil, who plays Dr. Van Hoosen in "Petticoat Surgeon"

Hannah Wasil, who plays Dr. Van Hoosen in “Petticoat Surgeon”

“Petticoat Surgeon: The Life of Dr. Bertha Van Hoosen” will begin its run with four performances in the RC Theatre beginning on Thursday, May 29, through Saturday, May 31, with shows at 7:30 p.m. The campus performances conclude with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, June 1. The venue then shifts to the Van Hoosen Museum where the show will be performed June 2–June 4 at 7:30 pm.

Hannah Wasil portrays the “elder” Bertha who narrates her life story. Nikki Mullaly plays a “young” Bertha, and Gage Bolton, Kathy Baltrhop, Maria Banou, Gabrielle House, Zachary Kwiecinski, Nicholas Kwiecinski, Brianna Wilkinson serve as a chorus portraying varieties of roles from family members, friends, neighbors, patients and fellow practitioners.

For the college performances, ticket prices are $12 for adults at the door, $10 in advance. Tickets for students and children are $5. Group rates are available. Tickets may be reserved online at or by emailing The ticket price for the museum performances is $10.