The Bakhtiari men ruled harshly over the women, who did most of the work around the camp. While the men gossiped with their neighbors, the women milked the sheep and goats and prepared the meals. Cooper and Schoedsack joined the men, lounging around the tents. Marguerite didn’t work with the women, but she soon found herself busy giving medical aid to the tribe.
The tribe may have remembered a female doctor from Scotland, Dr. Elizabeth N. Macbean Ross, who had lived with them a decade earlier. Marguerite had no medical training, but they began calling her Hakim Kham, the Lady Doctor, and they trusted she could relieve their suffering. She saw a large number of cases of malaria, venereal disease, eye problems, and skin disorders. She handed out quinine for malaria and boric acid for the eyes. She dispensed castor oil and cathartic pills for stomach troubles.
One woman brought her emaciated son, begging Marguerite to cure him. When Marguerite learned the boy had become sick after swallowing a leech, she was stumped. Then she had an idea to make the boy drink a solution of lukewarm saltwater. The boy vomited the leech and soon recovered. Another time, she was summoned to treat a man bleeding to death after a fight. Marguerite cleaned his wounds, amputated a finger that was hanging by a thread and bound his lacerations with adhesive tape.
Marguerite was so overwhelmed by requests for treatment that she had to establish hours when she would receive patients. While Cooper and Schoedsack admired the freedom of the tribesmen and the physical challenges they endured, Marguerite held no such romantic notions about the Bakhtiari. During her travels, Marguerite had developed a sense of feminism she once had scorned. She hated the way the Bakhtiari treated their women and was outraged when she caught the chief beating one of his wives. Marguerite screamed for him to stop, but he only laughed. Later Marguerite treated the woman for two broken ribs and asked the chief to allow his wife to ride one of his horses, but he refused.