The community of Black women physicians, 1864-1941: Trends in background, education, and training

Hist Sci. 2021 Feb 8;73275320987417. doi: 10.1177/0073275320987417. Online ahead of print.


We identified nearly 180 Black women who earned medical degrees prior to the start of the Second World War and found information regarding their family and social connections, premedical and medical educations, and internship experience or lack thereof for many of these women. Through their collective history, we observed large-scale trends, especially regarding the importance of "separatist" medical education and declining medical school attendance among African American women in the 1910s as medicine became an increasingly exclusionary profession. While our research uncovered trends specific to Black women physicians, the implications of our research can be applied far more widely to other historically marginalized scientific practitioners. This research reminds us of the longstanding and shifting presence of Black women in science and medicine, despite the enduring popular belief that white men represent who participates in science, both historically and today.

Keywords: African Americans in science; History of medicine; historical methods; minorities in science; women in science.