GUEST POST from Don – Fascinating People: Gloria Hartman Doughty

This spring my wife and I were invited to celebrate the 80th birthday of a man in a small group Bible study I attend.  We are pleased to know such a keen-thinking gentleman (who, by the way, traveled to England in June to participate in his doctoral graduation…).  At his party we met this amazing 95 year old woman.  Unfortunately I wrote nothing down, so in early October I spent an hour or so at her home to make sure my “facts” were factual.

The Kentucky Renaissance Pharmacy Museum’s Founder, Gloria Hartman Doughty started collecting pharmacy memorabilia after a gift of pharmacy history books. This gift prompted a lifetime of collecting and preserving pharmacy memorabilia. Ms. Doughty along with her late husband, Professor Dick Doughty, a pharmacognocist, helped in the planning of the medicinal herb gardens at Kentucky’s McDowell House Apothecary in Danville and the Shaker Garden in Pleasant Hill.


“Pharmacognosist.” – That is a word you won’t often find.  It basically means that Mr. Doughty knew a lot about the healing properties of plants.  He loved plants.  In fact, the year before he died he planted an autumn-blooming variety of Crocus (Crocus Autumnale) in his yard and it bloomed with medium purple flowers just after his funeral.  Crocus plants produce a compound used to treat arthritis and gout (but in its natural state is toxic … which, he knew).  Among his many achievements he wrote a book called Medicinal Properties of Appalachian Trees.

At the party Gloria was enthusiastic about everything, enjoying the stories others told.  She laughed and told jokes, sang, and shared many remembrances. (It could have been an hour but it felt like 10 minutes because she was so interesting.)  Her caretaker that day was a long-time friend.  On August 2 Gloria celebrated her 96th birthday.  She received a card and note from another long-time friend, Nancy.  Nancy was made part of the family as a teen.  Nancy wrote, “Your parents named you well.”  Gloria is a joyous blessing to those who know her.

At the party, Gloria sang the blessing of the meal that she has sung her whole life.  It is likely a German Lutheran blessing because her immigrant fore bearers always sang:

“Morning is here,
The board is set,
Thanks be to God,
Who gives us food.”

She related how at one time she and her husband had a very large, but very gentle Australian Shepherd by the name of Jack. 

Even the dog knew that no one should begin eating  until the singing of THAT blessing was completed.  So, once, at a party, the dog refused to eat.  Suddenly they realized they had not sung the blessing…and immediately after the “Amen” the dog chowed its bowl.

Gloria received her Masters in Pharmacy, but women at the time were not permitted into the doctoral programs so she never received her Doctorate.  Nevertheless, she was very active in Pharmacological circles.  She became the first woman on the Kentucky State Board of Pharmacy after she was approved for the position by the governor in 1960.

I had never met a person who had started a museum before.  One of her most interesting acquisitions was  from a Victorian-style building, built around 1880 on Bank Street in Louisville, Kentucky.  The second owner of the structure, pharmacist Frank Schweitzer, Sr. had a pharmacy on the first floor.  He bought the pharmacy around 1909.  When he died in 1946 his daughter just locked the pharmacy portion and ran a “sweets shop” at the front of the building.  So, in 2003 the museum directors walked into the Schweitzer pharmacy in Louisville and it had been untouched since 1946.  There were medicinal powders in glass jars which would have been used to compound prescriptions.    The original oak cabinets, the compounding equipment, and even the prescription logs were there.  In the mail slot was unopened mail from 1946.

Gloria came from a musical family.  Her father, James William Hartman, was a vocal coach, musician, and composer.  His positions included head of the music department at Andrew Jackson College in Virginia and head of the Piano Department at Johnstown College of Music.  In 1931 Mr Hartman wrote the following music (used by permission):

“Oh, my Jesus is with me wherever I go;
In pleasure, in sorrow, He’s with me I know.
Oh, I love my dear Jesus, I want you to know;
Because He is with me wherever I go.

In summer, in winter, in sunshine or rain;
My Jesus is with me His love is the same.
This story I’ll tell, I must praise His name.
I live with my Jesus, my life is not vain.”

Mr. Hartman would visit Princeton University to hear the Westminster Choir.  There among the audience he would sometimes notice Albert Einstein also enjoying the choir.  As a teenager, Gloria would attend with her dad.  On one such trip they ended up sitting right behind Einstein.  Her father struck up a conversation and said, “Professor Einstein, please meet my daughter, Gloria.”  Einstein, wearing his trademark unmatched trousers and jacket, looked at her and responded, “That’s a beautiful name.”

This is not a biography, so there is much more that could be written…I will include a brief comment (because this could be a post all by itself) that the Doughtys were well connected in the community.  As an example, in May of 1976 they were asked to host in their home 2 delegates of a group visiting from USSR (obviously before the breakup of the Communist Bloc).  Leonid Brezhnev was the Communist leader and most citizens had little opportunity to travel to other countries.  The group of dignitaries was coming to observe the Primary Election procedures of our Bicentennial.  The guests of the Doughtys were a journalist from Moscow and a professor of Economics in Moscow (but from Siberia).

I meet many people in my work.  A few weeks ago I was in a home in Versailles, KY when I noticed a Pharmacy Degree on the wall.  Of course I asked if she was familiar with Mrs. Doughty.  She responded that she has met Gloria, and said that at Pharmacist meetings there was no mistaking who Gloria was.  “When she entered the room everything changed,” she said.

It is not every day you meet a vivacious, witty, 95 (now 96) year old lady with that much history and charm.  She met Einstein, but we met Gloria.


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~ Doing Faith Wrong ~ Quirky! ~ Ten-Foot Trestle ~ Settling Estates ~ Living In High Horse Country ~  The Dying Generation ~

2 thoughts on “GUEST POST from Don – Fascinating People: Gloria Hartman Doughty

    1. Thanks, Jim
      This means a lot since I know of the friendship you and your wife have had with Gloria.
      Gloria really is a fascinating lady.

      – Don

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