Picture of James Doan in the Weston-super-Mare Gazette, Somerset, England, “James Doan and Aunty Rogers,” 18 January 1902.

Doan’s Kidney Pills, a widely used brand of pills that gained popularity throughout the United States and Britain in the early twentieth century, claimed Canadian Quaker origins in their advertising. The pills were said to help a number of ‘female complaints,’ including kidney disease, back pain, nervousness, headaches, and restlessness. A 1902 advertisement for the pills in the Weston-super-Mare Gazette (Somerset, EN) stated, “You can be well, if you will treat the cause, as the Quakers did, and cure the kidneys.”[1]

The pills were created by James Doan (1846–1916), a druggist from Kingsville, Ontario. James Doan was the eighth child of Amos and Margaret Ann Doan, who were members of the Yonge Street Meeting. According to the Doane Family Book, James’ father Amos came to Upper Canada in 1808 with his parents, Joseph and Mary Doan, from Bucks County, Pennsylvania.[2]

James Doan claimed to be given the formula for the pills from ‘Aunty Mary Rogers.’ While little information is given about Mary Rogers, it’s likely James is referring to Mary Finch Rogers. Mary Finch and her husband Augustus Rogers were Orthodox Friends, part of the Yonge Street Preparative Meeting.[3] Their fifth child, Nelson S. Rogers, married Elizabeth Doan, the sister of James Doan. This made ‘Aunty Rogers’ not James’ actual aunt, but his sister’s mother-in-law.

Photo of a 1930s jar of ‘Doan’s Backache Kidney Pills.’ Item from the Wyndham and District Historical Museum, photo courtesy of nzmuseums.co.nz.

In a 1900 advertisement, the story of how Aunty Rogers’s formula came to James Doan is given:

Many years ago there lived in a quiet country town in Canada, an old Quaker lady who was affectively known as Aunty Rogers. She had acquired great skill in compounding medicines from certain roots and herbs, the curative properties of which she knew full well, and many are the stories they tell to-day in Ontario of her wonderful cures. Chief among them was a recipe for curing Kidney Disease, an ailment that was then playing sad havoc with the farmers round about, who were compelled to work exposed to all sorts of weather, and many an hour of suffering was saved, and many a life snatched from the very grace, by what came to be known as Aunty Rogers’ Kidney Care.

Now it happened when folks were flocking from far and near to beg of Aunty Rogers some of her kidney cure, that the fame of her preparation reached the ears of Mr. James Doan, the eminent specialist of Kingsville. He obtained some of Aunty Rogers’ preparation, and his superior knowledge of medicine told him at once that she and made a most valuable discovery.[4]

The image of ‘Aunty Rogers, the Quakeress,’ was often used in advertisements for the pills. Illustrations of her at her home in Stayner, Ontario were included, highlighting her faith background. Though Doan sold rights to the medication in 1894, Doan’s Kidney Pills continued to use a maple leaf logo for decades and traced its origins to Aunty Rogers. A version of Doan’s Kidney Pills can still be purchased today.

Illustration of ‘Aunty Rogers’ in The Jersey Weekly Press and Independent, 14 April 1900, pg 14.

[1] “James Doan and Aunty Rogers,” Weston-super-Mare Gazette, Somerset, 18 January 1902, pg 10.

[2] Alfred Alder Doane, The Doane Family: 1. Deacon John of Doane, of Plymouth; II. Doctor John Done, of Maryland; And Their Descendants. With Notes Upon English Families of the Name (Salem, MA: Salem Press Co., 1902), 223.

[3] Augustus and Mary Rogers are listed as the parents of Augustus Rogers in the Newmarket Monthly Meeting Membership Roll, Box 41-1. Available here: https://cfha.info/NewmarketBotsford041-1.pdf. Mary’s husband, Augustus, was very active in the Yonge St Preparative Meeting from 1823 until his death in 1858.

[4]“Aunty Rogers, the Quakeress: The History of a Famous Medicine,” The Jersey Weekly Press and Independent, 14 April 1900, pg 14.


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