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Wright-Peterson is finalist for state book award

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Virginia Wright-Peterson
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Rochester author Virginia Wright-Peterson has been named a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award for her book, "Women of Mayo Clinic: The Founding Generation."

The work is her first published book, and news of the award shocked her, she said.

"I'm really grateful, because I've been such an advocate of women's stories and trying to get women's stories out there," Wright-Peterson said.

The finalists were announced recently after 27 judges from the state, including writers, teachers, librarians, and booksellers, selected 36 finalists for nine categories. The awards program is sponsored by the the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library.

"Women of Mayo Clinic" tells the stories of the women who helped propel the clinic forward in its early years at a time when social barriers made it difficult for them to advance professionally.

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Award winners will be announced Saturday, April 8, at the 29th annual ceremony at InterContinental Saint Paul Riverfront.

Wright-Peterson teaches writing at University of Minnesota-Rochester. She has written for the University of Illinois Press, Minnesota Public Radio, Rochester Post Bulletin and the Twin Cities Daily Planet. In 2007, she maintained a weekly blog, "On Deployment Now," while serving on a military base in Iraq with the American Red Cross.

Wright-Peterson's book details several of Mayo's founding women, including Dr. Harriet Preston, the first physician to work with the Mayo family but whose membership application to the Minnesota Medical Society was denied because she was a woman.

Others figures include Maud Mellish Wilson, a clinic librarian and editor who helped enhance the quality of physicians' papers and spread the clinic's reputation; and Eleanora Fry, an artist who drew many of the then-state-of-the-art procedures that Mayo was pioneering.

Last year, an exhibit based on Wright-Peterson's book was hosted by Mayo Clinic, and a similar exhibit is planned for this year. The upcoming exhibit is focused on women who came after the period covered by Wright-Peterson's book. She is involved in that project as well.

Wright-Peterson said she is grateful for the finalist recognition, because it shines a light on women's stories. The record on women's biographies is "pretty bad," she said. One study found that only 28 percent of all the biographies written in 2015 were about women. And in the 100-year history of the Pulitzer Prize for biography, only 12 times has been it awarded to a book about women.

"The fact that a book about women and women's stories even makes it to the finalists stage is really exciting to me," she said.

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'Women of Mayo Clinic: The Founding Generation' by Virginia Wright-Peterson

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