Doctor or Doctress?

Explore American history through the eyes of women physicians

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Eliza Anna Grier was an African American woman who graduated from Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (WMCP) 1n 1897. In 1890, while still a student at Fisk University, a historically black college in Nashville, Tennessee, Grier wrote to WMCP to inquire about the annual cost of attending school there.

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Eliza Grier and Matilda Evans: Two Women, Two Paths

Eliza Grier was an African American born into the last years of slavery in North Carolina in 1864. She went on to work her way through Fisk University in Tennessee and then attended Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (WMCP) on scholarship, graduating with her medical degree in 1897. In 1898, shortly after graduating WMCP, Grier was the first black woman licensed to practice medicine in the state of Georgia. She eventually set up a practice in Greenville, South Carolina, serving an impoverished community. Eliza Grier became a physician at a time when female physicians were relatively rare; African-American female physicians were rarer still. African American women who wanted to gain admission to study medicine and become licensed practicing physicians faced double discrimination: gender and race. Additionally, the funds to obtain a medical education were often out of reach.

In her letter to WMCP, Eliza Grier explained that she had been attending Fisk for seven years, presumably because she was “working for every dollar.” Grier, an African American, expressed her desire to be a physician and help those of her race as well as all of her “fellow creatures,” but also expressed the fear that she would not be able to afford medical school. She noted the lack of African-American women in the medical profession, citing cost and “timidity” as contributing factors. Demonstrating no such timidity herself, Grier directly asked how one might receive help paying for a medical education. Sparing no details, she stated her situation bluntly: she was an emancipated slave with no money.

Creator: Grier, Eliza Anna

Contributor: Perot, Thomas Morris, 1828-1902

Language: english

Item Number: a266_057

Pages: 4

Size: 12.5x20 cm

Physical Collection: Records of W/MCP: Registrar 1921-1975, ACC-266

Finding Aid:

Link to OPAC Record:

Cite this source: Title of document, date. Eliza Grier and Matilda Evans: Two Women, Two Paths. Doctor or Doctress?: Explore American history through the eyes of women physicians. The Legacy Center, Drexel University College of Medicine Archives & Special Collections. Philadelphia, PA. Date of access.

African American medical students

African American women--Education

African American women physicians

Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania-- History

Slaves- Emanicpation

Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania -- Alumni and alumnae

Columbia, SC

Fisk University, Nashville, TN

Womens Medical College, North College Avenue, Philadelphia