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Typescript autobiography written by Edith Flower Wheeler, Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania class of 1897

Why It Matters

On pages 114-155 of her memoir, Edith Flower Wheeler, a graduate of the Woman' Medical College of Pennsylvania class of 1897, described an incident that took place during graduation. Apparently, a white student did not want to walk with the two African-American students in the graduation procession. This incident shows that despite the relative tolerance at WMCP for women of all races and backgrounds, African Americans still encountered subtle and overt racism from individuals, including fellow students.

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Analyze this evidence

  • Who are the “E” and “G” in the class of 1897 that Flower is referring to?
  • Why does Flower mention that her classmate (“F”)--who didn’t want to march with the African American students at graduation--was from the “good old Abolition state of Massachusetts”?
  • Does Flower feel the same way about the African American students? What does she do in the end?

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I may have mentioned there were two colored girls in my class, both well-educated nice girls. It happens that their last names began with E and G, so they always came in the group with the “F”s. The final graduation exercises were held in one of the large theatres and the graduates marched in two by two to take their place on the stage. One “F” was a girl from the good old Abolition state of Massachusetts, but she must have felt that to march with a Negro wasn’t what the war was fought for, and she suggested a refusal, but, as I had made it a point to show no discrimination for four years, I refused to do it now.