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 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.

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Two Women, Two Paths

Eliza Grier was 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 the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (WMCP) on a scholarship, graduating with her medical degree in 1897. In 1898, shortly after graduating from WMCP, Grier became 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 women physicians were relatively rare; African-American women physicians were rarer still. African- American women who wanted 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. If African-American women did manage to attend medical school and graduate with a degree, establishing a professional career was also fraught with obstacles.

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.

Creator: Grier, Eliza Anna

Contributor: Anthony, Susan B. (Susan Brownell), 1820-1906

Language: english

Item Number: a266_1897grier

Pages: 3

Size: 19.6x12.3

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 women physicians

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

Anthony, Susan B. (Susan Brownell), 1820-1906

Greenville, South Carolina

Rochester, New York