This week we are highlighting the work of Rebecca Lee Crumpler, the first female African-American physician. She was widely recognized for treating women and girls and was an accomplished author.
*This photo is disputed as to whether this is Rebecca Lee but is commonly used when retelling her story. Regardless, the account provided is accurate and fact-checked.
After studying at the New England Female Medical College, she became the first African-American female doctor in 1864. She became an author in 1883 when she published a book called ‘A Book of Medical Discourses’ which was one of the first publications by an African American person about medicine. Intended for mothers and nurses, her work focused on maternal and pediatric medical care.
Throughout her time studying and working as a doctor, she experienced intense racism and sexism. In the 1800s, many men believed that their brains were 10 percent BIGGER than a woman’s brain, therefore they were smarter and more equipped to be physicians. Women were thought to be beautiful and submissive.
Because of these false notions, many men did not respect Crumpler and her work. She was even rejected for prescriptions for her patients. Regardless, she continued to treat women and children in Boston.
Her legacy lives on with the Rebecca Lee Pre-Health Society at Syracuse University and the Rebecca Lee Society, the first medical society for African-American women. Her personal home on Joy Street in Boston is also a landmark on the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail!
We here at Yonitox have enjoyed highlighting the African-American leaders in female health this month and will continue to recognize the work of the countless women that Yonitox is built on.