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Mary Jane Stafford was born in Hyde Park, Vermont, on 31st December, 1834. When she was three years old Mary's family moved to Crete, Illinois. After leaving school she taught in Joliet, Shawneetown and Cairo.
On the outbreak of the American Civil War the Union Army arrived to protect Cairo from the Confederate Army. As the town was situated at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. A series of epidemic diseases broke out amongst the troops and Stafford volunteered her services as a nurse.
In the summer of 1861 Stafford began work with Mary Ann Bickerdyke at Fort Donelson. Stafford also served under General Ulysses S. Grant. at Shiloh in Tennessee. She also worked on the hospital ships, City of Memphis and Hazel Dell.
After the war Stafford was determined to become a doctor. She graduated from the Medical College for Women in New York in 1869. She also studied at the University of Breslaw in Germany, wher she performed the first ovariotomy ever done by a woman.
In 1872 Stafford opened a private practice in Chicago. Later she became professor of women's diseases at the Boston University School of Medicine and a staff doctor at the Massachusetts Homeopathic Hospital. Mary Jane Stafford died in Tarpon Springs, Florida, on 8th December, 1891.