Here are a couple of cool photographs of the López Adobe in August 1958. The upstairs was the residence of Catalina (Kate) Lopez de Millen, daughter of Gerónimo and Catalina Lopez, owners of the historic home from 1883 until Gerónimo’s death in 1921. Downstairs, as seen from the sign at the corner of the yard, was largely comprised of the offices of Dr. Virginia Pallais, who, for thirty years, practiced gynecology and obstetrics.
Obviously, female doctors were quite rare nearly sixty years ago and Dr. Pallais had an interesting story. She was born at Calexico in Imperial County in January 1920 to Arturo Pallais, a physician, and Josefa Espinoza. Both parents were natives of Nicaragua and the family lived for a time in Guatemala, as well. In late 1912, the Pallais family migrated to the United States and settled in Calexico, where Arturo owned the Los Angeles Hotel. By the end of decade, the family to Los Angeles and lived on University Avenue and Jefferson Boulevard–this is now part of the University of Southern California campus.
By the 1930s, the Pallais family relocated to East Los Angeles, where Virginia attended and graduated from Garfield High School. She then went to U.C.L.A. and U.C. Berkeley, from where she studied bacteriology and graduated in 1943. Virginia then went to U.C. San Francisco’s School of Medicine and received her degree there in 1946. Three years later, she finished her residency at the San Francisco Women and Children’s Hospital.
From the early 1950s to the early 1980s, Dr. Pallais practiced in the San Fernando Valley, starting in 1951 at Van Nuys, then for a time at the Lopez Adobe and then in a Mission Hills location. She was also on the staff at Holy Cross Hospital, where she was chair of the Obstetrics-Gynecology department. In fact, she not only was she the first female chief of staff at that facility, earning that position in 1966, but she had the distinction of being the first woman to have that position at any hospital west of the Mississippi River! She also published professional papers based on research she did on such topics as serious uterine injury to pregnant women.
Upon retirement, Dr. Pallais retired to Bodega Bay, along the coast in Sonoma County, where she lived for twenty-four years until she passed away in February 2007. Not only was she a highly-regarded doctor, but she was quite a musician, playing cello, classical guitar and piano.