African American Women in Antebellum America

Amid the harshness of slavery, American women of African descent managed to preserve the culture of their ancestry and articulate their struggles. Black female poets and writers emerged throughout the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. Many prominent free black women in the North were active in the Abolitionist Movement.

Slave Women
Enslaved women in every state of the antebellum Union undoubtedly considered escaping from bondage, but relatively few attempted it - often to …Read More...

Pioneer for Women in the Medical Professions

Mary Putnam Jacobi was a prominent physician, author, scientist, activist, educator, and perhaps most importantly, a staunch advocate of women's right to seek medical education and training. Men in medicine claimed that a medical education would make women physically ill, and that women physicians endangered their profession. Jacobi worked to prove them wrong and argued that it was social restrictions that threatened female health.

Image: Mary Corinna Putnam as a medical student, 1860s

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Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin was a publisher, journalist and editor of Women's Era, the first newspaper published by and for African American women. She is perhaps best remembered for her role in establishing the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs.

First Woman Eye Surgeon and Prison Reform Activist

Image: Dr. Bella Chapin Barrows
Credit: Hartland Historical Society
Artist unknown

Dr. Bella Chapin Barrows accomplished many firsts in her 68 years of life. She was the first woman employed by the U.S. State Department, first woman to have a private medical practice in Washington DC, first woman ophthalmologist (a specialist in eye ailments) in the United States, first woman eye surgeon, and first woman professor at a medical school …Read More...

First African American Woman Doctor in New York

Only five years after the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constition abolished slavery in the United States, Susan McKinney Steward graduated from medical school and became the first African American woman physician in New York and only the third black female doctor in the country. She practiced medicine in Brooklyn and Manhattan most of her life.

Early Years
Susan Maria Smith was born in Brooklyn, New York in the year 1847. She …Read More...

Pioneer Physician and Professor of Anatomy

Hannah Myers Longshore graduated from the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania's first class in 1851 and became Philadelphia's first woman doctor with a medical degree to establish a private practice, which she continued for forty years. She also lectured extensively first at the Female Medical College, and later in public speeches about sexual health at a time when there was little public discussion of any kind on the subject.

Early Years
Hannah Myers …Read More...