I started out with Mildred Carter's book. I was browsing through a bookstore when I happen upon her book. Her book changed my life forever. I would not by doing what I am doing today if it hadn't been for her book. This is a newsletter article from 1986. There is a reason for this replay because I recently discovered her legal challenge by the USPS which would if successful meant that her book would not have been on that shelf for me to pick up.
MILDRED CARTER: A TEST OF TIME
Who is Mildred Carter and how did she arrive at a particular point in the history of reflexology to spark a new level of awareness for a field? The following is the result of an interview with Mrs. Carter in 1986 when she was 80-some years old.
Mildred Carter’s professional reflexology career started in a living room in Chico. The availability of her book in bookstores everywhere popularized reflexology for an entire generation and helped create its popularity in the late twentieth century. The legal uproar over her first reflexology book in 1970 established precedent for all self-help health books to come. Reflexology may have been a passing note in history had Mrs. Carter not put into print what others dared not write. Her work is the result of a unique individual arriving at a particular point in history. Mrs. Carter’s natural drive toward helping others, a commitment to the written work, and a pioneering spirit blazed a trail for those who followed.
Mildred Carter is a writer/researcher. She’s always written and she’s always investigated. When the other kids were doing their work in the classroom, she was writing cowboy stories. Her first childhood pet was a collection of insects gathered for observation. Primary observation? Insects disappear when introduced to a snake, her second childhood pet. When her husband was stricken with a serious heart attack, observation and research lead her to seek the services of a local Cherokee Indian herbologist/healer. She had been practicing yoga for a number of years when she became aware of reflexology in 1954.
Mrs. Carter became a reflexologist in a manner common to many. Her cousin gave her a book on reflexology and also commented that she should do it. On her way home from her cousin’s
house it occurred to Mrs. Carter that she had heard of a number of references to the feet in the Bible and that, perhaps this “kookie” stuff might have something to it. A neighbor became the first of friends and family to serve as guinea pigs and successful outcomes.
Mrs. Carter was a widow with three children and no income when she began her reflexology practice in her Chico, California home in 1955. The living room served as an office with a curtain across the dining room entrance so her children could have a place of their own. Even the realtor who sold her the house became a client. Word of mouth advertised her business for her. Her clientele included people of all ages from all walks of life. Many paid nothing. Others contributed a donation of $2 or $3. At one point, the Welfare Department paid the fee or Mrs. Carter’s work on welfare recipients. Her only reflexology class was taken from Eunice Ingham in Sacramento in 1955 for the purpose of obtaining a certificate.
Mrs. Carter’s business had begun inauspiciously when the large wood-burned “Reflexology” sign in front of the house was stolen the first night it was erected. Mrs. Carter has always considered prank-pulling college students as the culprits but she also considers it a blessing. (That something good comes from everything is one of Mrs. Carter’s firmly held beliefs.) Her legal problems may have begun years earlier with notoriety of a large sign. Although her practice was known to the city attorney, the practice of reflexology was legally questionable in the city of Chico. While several reflexologists practised in Oroville a few miles away, Mrs. Carter was the only practitioner in Chico.
In 1968 Mrs. Carter’s literary agent submitted a book about health, including chapters about reflexology, yoga, herbs and other topics. One publisher had been seeking a reflexology book to publish. Prentice-Hall expressed interest in Mrs. Carter’s reflexology work. Mrs. Carter worked with her editor at Prentice-Hall for a year as he gradually discarded all but the reflexology information. It was not an easy year. Her husband commented, ‘What do you want to do a book for, anyway? It’ll never amount to anything.”
The book was published under the title Helping Yourself With Foot Reflexology. It became one of the two best-selling titles ever published by Prentice-Hall. In later years her husband noted his error in prediction.
The publication of the book set off a furor. Mail arrived by the sackful. Readers reported success with the techniques. Some had more questions. Many wanted to order the devices illustrated in the book. Mrs. Carter eventually bowed to public demand, working with a manufacturer to design and produce the instruments.
Mail fraud charges were leveled against the publisher by the U.S. Postal Service on the basis of statements in a mail-order brochure for the book. A decision by the publisher not to. contest would have prevented further publication of the book. The publisher chose to contest the charges. (How close was it? Our information is that one lone Prentice-Hall employee pushed for what became the final decision.) The specific nature of the disposition of the case is unknown. While it is not clear whether the charges were dropped or a court case was won by the publisher, publication of the book continued.(Ed. Note: The charges were dismissed.)
Meanwhile, a continent away, at her home in Oregon, Mrs. Carter was to experience, personally, the ramifications of the charges against Prentice-Hall. An investigator from the American Medical Association arrived at her home to question her. His attempt was to over-power and bully her. He repeatedly asked if she had written certain statements in the book. She repeatedly answered “Maybe. Maybe not.” (She had decided not to be intimidated. She would go to jail and work on feet there if need be.) Uttering threats, the investigator left.
A letter written by Mrs. Carter to the mother of a coma stricken child brought the same A.M.A. investigator to her doorstep in 1972. He announced, ‘We’ve got you this time and we’re going to put you in the penitentiary.” Mrs. Carter listened patiently and then indicated that she had a minister’s license. The investigator asked if she were a Christian Scientist. Mrs. Carter indicated no, but’ she produced her minister’s license. (As a curious side-note to history, Mrs. Carter never knew why the investigator suddenly asked if she were a Christian Scientist. We were able to solve a 14-year mystery by citing for Mrs. Carter the 1917 Cardoza decision of the New York Supreme Court which was used by Christian Scientists to avoid medical licensure for providers of health care for believers of that religion.) The investigator departed warning her never to practice, write, or use the word reflexology again.
Mrs. Carter gave up her public practice but continued to work on family and friends. She had also decided that she could reach more people through the written word. Her book Hand Reflexology: Key to Perfect Health was published in 1975. Body Reflexology, Healing at Your Fingertips was published in 1983. Mrs. Carter continues her work today.