Sofie Herzog arrived at the frontier town of Brazosport, Texas, in 1893, and gave the locals much to talk about. In the first place, she was a physician – a FEMALE doctor. And she rode astride her horse, wearing a scandalous split skirt. If that were not enough, this outrageously liberated woman had the audacity to cut her hair short and wear a man's hat.
Doctor Sofie, as the citizens came to call her, appeared at first the opposite of the 19th century woman, but she was in other ways typical of her era. Like most American women, she was a devoted mother, raising seven children to adulthood. She was a loving wife until her husband died in 1893.
Seeking a change in widowhood, Sofie boldly abandoned comforts of New York City, and moved to a new life in the frontier West. She faced an uphill battle to gain confidence of the Texans she wished to treat. Brazosport was a rough town, and a female doctor just seemed out of place. But Doctor Sofie quickly won them over with her ability to heal.Many patients were victims of brawls and shootouts. Sofie's skillful removal of bullets gained her fame. Sofie had a necklace crafted that was sure to generate publicity. Twenty four bullets she had removed from men were linked with gold wire. Sofie wore it proudly, and the amusing tale of her necklace spread throughout Texas.
The St. Louis and Mexico railroad was being built through Texas, and Sofie's work increased. Construction accidents were common. A railway handcar driver often raced to the scene carrying Sofie, her dress billowing in the wind, her medical bag clutched at her side.Sofie applied to be chief surgeon of the railroad. Already doing the work, she wanted the full pay that was rightfully hers. Local railroaders hired her quickly. Railroad executives back in New York then discovered, to their chauvinistic horror, that Dr. Herzog was a woman. When they asked her to resign, Sofie's answer was simple:
"No, thank you. I'll keep this job until I fail to provide service."
Dr. Sofie Herzog remained the railroad's chief surgeon for thirty years. The brave and brash doctor died in 1925. Photos and belongings of Dr. Sofie can be viewed at a small museum in Brazosport. But visitors will not see her necklace of bullets. As specified in her will, the necklace was placed in her coffin, where it has remained ever since.