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Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Only Woman in Her Class

By Dr. Donald F. Smith, Cornell University
Date of posting February 5, 2011

This historical blog is in recognition of the 150th anniversary 
of the American Veterinary Medical Association (1863-2013).


Though Cornell was a leader for women seeking a veterinary degree during the 1930s and 1940s, enrollment was more restricted during the subsequent two decades. Women, it was argued, were less likely than farm boys to pursue large animal practice, and that was the greatest priority for most veterinary colleges at that time.

Dr. Linda Dixon Reeve [Peddie]
Photo provided by Dr. Reeve, 2010

During spring 1961, Linda Dixon Reeve sat with seven other women awaiting her interview for the two slots (of 60) that were allocated that year to ‘girls'. She remembers very well the long and grueling meeting with the Admissions Committee:

It was on the order of the Grand Inquisition. All I was lacking was the bucket over my head and the gong, but there was a bright light. The interview table was set up in a “T” configuration with me at the bottom of the “T” and Associate Dean Gordon Danks at the head. There were men seated all the way around, all of whom had pens and tablets and hardly looked at me. It felt like it was just Danks and me.

He asked me if I cooked, if I sewed, if I danced, if I enjoyed dancing. Did I date? Then he wanted to know, “If you were to marry someone who had a vocation out in the desert where there really weren’t any animals, just what would you do with this degree?” That one really threw me because I thought, “Oh, my goodness, this man knows I’m dating a fellow from Dartmouth who happens to be studying oceanography”.
To her surprise, Linda was selected and became the only woman in her class (the college took three women the following year to make up the deficit).

After graduating in 1965, she married a classmate, James Peddie, and they moved to California. They partnered in the Conejo Valley Veterinary Clinic in Thousand Oaks, a large and progressive group of veterinarians who handled all species and managed both a hospital and ambulatory service. The size of the practice allowed Dr. Reeve a flexible work schedule while her daughters were young.

In addition of domestic animal practice, Dr. Reeve and her husband also were veterinarians to animal stars. They worked with all kinds of animals, including primates, large cats, and elephants. For over 15 years, they cared for the animals in television series, such as “Frazier” and “Full House”, and in such feature films as “Dancing with Wolves”.

At the height of their career, they had penetrated the inner circle of Hollywood and were working for all of the major studios. Dr. Reeve became particularly adept at dealing with regulatory and quarantine issues associated with moving animals between the United States and foreign countries. She was a member of the National Tuberculosis Working Group for Zoo and Wildlife Species, formatting protocols for the diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis in elephants.

She was also instrumental in establishing the American Veterinary Medical Association's policy that advocated the use of the guide and tethers in managing elephants. This policy has helped halt legislation proposed by animal activists to outlaw use of the guide and tethers, tools she considers absolutely essential to assure the safety of both veterinarians and the elephants entrusted to their care.

Dr. Reeve retired from veterinary practice in 2002. Her biography and 2010 interview can be heard at,%20Linda%20Dixon%20Reeve,%20'65.pdf

Dr. Smith invites comments at