in 1876 and in the early 1900s.
(Photos of her husbands are below)
Dr. Willella Howe-Waffle was
one of Orange County's first woman doctors,
delivering over 1000 babies during her 38 years of
practice. She was known for her kindness and
devotion to her patients.
She and her husband, Dr. Alvin Howe came to Orange
County in 1878, settling in the Westminster area .
She taught at the old Bolsa School in Santa Ana to
earn enough to complete her medical education.
When she was ready to do so, she took her baby
daughter with her to Hahnemann Medical College in
Chicago. She graduated in 1886, returned to Santa
Ana and began her practice that same year.
Dr. Willella Howe
Graduation Day, 1886
Hahnemann Medical College
Regarding her ability to
establish herself in what was then a "man's
career," Dr Willella was quoted in a Santa Ana
Register interview as saying, "Some of those who
fought me hardest have become my best friends." At
that time, it was hard for some to understand that
a woman had the right to take her place alongside
male practitioners and make a business of treating
Dr Willella remembered the early days in our area,
when doctors, in order to get to Los Angeles from
Westminster, had to forge their own path through
the cactus, willows, and mustard plants. There
were no roads, and the winter rains brought floods
too awful to recall. Many a time she had driven
her horses through mud and water up to their
waists, with the flood creeping around the floor
of the buggy. Dr. Willella was known as a very
generous and loving person, as well as a dedicated
physician. Alvin and Willella took two years to
build the ornate Victorian house, moving in with
their two young daughters in 1889. Sadly, they
would remain as a family for just another year.
Dr. Alvin Howe was accused by Orange County's
first Grand Jury of performing an abortion on a
The jury eventually ruled the evidence hearsay and
Dr Howe was acquitted. However, he decided to
leave town for San Francisco, rather than face the
dishonor such a charge would bring him.
Willella lived on in the house with her daughters,
continuing her medical practice and her
involvement with the Episcopal Church of the
Messiah and several other local organizations. It
took an unusual amount of courage for the doctor
to go about her daily business with her head held
high, but then, she was that kind of a woman.
After divorcing Dr Howe in 1897, she married Edson
Waffle, a prominent livery stable owner and
rancher, becoming known a Dr. Howe-Waffle. In
addition to her flourishing medical practice she
was now raising a family consisting of her own two
daughters and Edson's three children.
The grandchildren, who spent many a happy hour in
the Howe-Waffle House, remember it as a warm and
loving place to visit. Dr. Willella loved birds
and animals and had an aviary in her back yard. It
has been said that one of her parrots could sing
some of the hymns he heard wafting from the
Episcopal Church across the street.
Dr. Willella had an active medical practice and
was involved in many local activities right up to
the day she died, at age 74 in 1924, at the
bedside of a patient. The Dr. Howe-Waffle House
has been restored to look as if the Doctor has
just left to be with a patient and will be
Howe, MD (1st husband)
Edson Waffle (2nd husband)