Born in Monument, Colorado, Frances McConnell-Mills was a determined woman who graduated from high school at 15, acquired her bachelor’s degree at 17, and received her master’s in chemistry at 19. At 25, Dr. Frances McConnell-Mills was named Denver’s first city toxicologist.
Although her father, a country doctor and pharmacist, had helped many young men through medical school, he refused to pay her tuition because he thought medicine was too hard a life for a woman, but due to young France’s interest, he took her on house calls, drilled her on arithmetic and discussed basic treatments of illnesses. Frances suffered frequent respiratory illnesses, and did not start school until she was eight years old.
Frances attended the University of Denver and studied English, Latin, French, Greek, scientific German, physics, quantitative analysis, organic chemistry and astronomy. She also sang in school concerts, churches and military bases. While writing her thesis, she became interested in toxicology. As the first woman toxicologist in the Rocky Mountain region and probably America’s first woman forensic pathologist, she had an esteemed reputation for her blood work and poison analysis and, from 1925 to 1950, was instrumental in solving many of the region’s most puzzling crimes. She had a remarkable ability to uncover clues sometimes with scanty evidence, of age, size and identity of victims. In subsequent trials, Dr. McConnell-Mills often testified as a key witness.
After losing her leg to a blood-clot in a complication from an appendectomy, Frances recovered and used a prosthetic and returned to work and resumed as director of laboratories at Denver General Hospital. Ultimately, Frances was confined to a wheelchair, and died at the age of 75.
Books with reference to Dr. Frances McConnell-Mills: Women of Consequence by Jeanne Varnell