Doctor or Doctress?

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Eliza Anna Grier was an African American who graduated from the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1897. By 1901, Grier was struggling to maintain her medical practice in South Carolina while battling health issues of her own. 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.

Why It Matters

In 1901, Eliza Grier was sick with “La grippe” ( the flu) and struggling to keep her practice afloat. Most of her patients were poor and presumably not always able to pay for her care. Grier sought the assistance of Susan B. Anthony, one the most famous women’s rights advocates and social reformers of the time. That Grier thought to appeal to this prominent white woman speaks to the changes in a society where women of disparate backgrounds found some common cause in the struggle toward equality.

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Analyze this evidence

  • Why do you think Dr. Grier wrote to Susan B. Anthony for help? Do you think they knew each other?
  • What are some of the reasons Dr. Grier is struggling to pay her expenses and keep her practice open?
  • What do you think Dr. Grier means when she writes that "there are a great many forces operating against...the Negro in business"?

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Dear Miss Anthony:- I write to you because I believe you will listen to my appeal and in some way help me. I am a young Negro woman. I am engaged in the practice of medicine in Greenville, South Carolina. I have made a pretty good practice, but mostly among the very poor and in neglected districts. By and by I hope to get something from that source. I have been quite ill for six weeks with la grippe I have not been able to make a single dollar. My expenses are going on just the same. I cannot retain my place of business unless some one will help me. Rent is $12.00 per month and this place is the only one that can be had down town now. There are a great many forces operating against the sources of the Negro in business. This, however, I hope someday will be overcome. The only thing that impedes my progress is that I am trying hard to carry on my part, and am illy prepared, in a financial way to continue when hardships and want come on. I graduated from the Woman’s College of Pennsylvania, class of '97. Please help me in this my time of severe trial and want, for I need assistance in a financial way. May the blessed master incline your heart in this matter. I am yours sincerely, Eliza Anna Grier, M.D