Doctor or Doctress?

Explore American history through the eyes of women physicians

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Eliza Anna Grier was an African American who graduated from Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (WMCP) in 1897. In 1901 Grier was practicing medicine in South Carolina and struggling to maintain her practice while battling her own health issues. On March 7 of that year Grier wrote to Susan B. Anthony, President of the National Woman Suffrage Association, to appeal to her for financial help. Anthony forwarded Grier’s letter to WMCP and wrote that while she sympathized with Grier’s plight, she thought the college may be better able to help Grier than she.

Why It Matters

In her letter to WMCP, Anthony sympathizes with Grier and her plight, and acknowledges the hardship and difficulty of Grier’s endeavor to practice medicine in adverse circumstances. The fact that Anthony, a prominent white woman and perhaps the most famous women’s rights advocate of the time, responded to the appeal of Grier (albeit to Grier’s alma mater and not to Grier herself), an African American woman born into slavery but pursuing a professional demonstrates how women of disparate backgrounds found some common cause and mutual sympathy in the struggle to gain equal rights in all aspects of life, including in careers and the professions.

Analyze this evidence

  • Why does Susan B. Anthony feel sympathy for Eliza Grier?
  • Does she help Grier? Why or why not?

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To the President of the Womens' Medical College, Philadelphia,PA Dear Madam: -- I send you the enclosed letter because Miss Grier claims to have graduated from your college, and because I think you can help her better than anybody else. She has undertaken a herculean task in that little old town of Greenville. If she is a woman of thrift and management she ought to have help to get started, abut her getting the grippe is certainly bad. My sympathies are very strong for all these women, by my purse is not equal to helping them financially. Cannot you suggest some way out of her trouble? Very sincerely yours, Susan B. Anthony.