Doctor or Doctress?

Explore American history through the eyes of women physicians

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A letter from Matilda Evans to Alfred Jones, regarding a potential WMCP student.

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“She Has Undertaken a Herculean Task”: Early African American Women Physicians

Matilda Evans was born in South Carolina and won a scholarship to attend Oberlin College.  Later she attended Woman’s Medical College, also with help from scholarships, and graduated in 1897. After graduating WMCP in 1897, she returned to South Carolina and built up a substantial practice serving a mix of patients, poor and affluent and black and white. [One of the] first female physician[s] in South Carolina [of any race], Evans was a leading advocate for the health of the African American community of Columbia, South Carolina, and founded several institutions for black medical professionals and patients, including two hospitals and a nurse-training school. Evans 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 study medicine and become licensed practicing physicians faced double discrimination: gender and race.  The funds to obtain a medical education were often out of reach for these women.  If they did manage to attend medical school and graduate with a degree, establishing a professional career was also fraught with obstacles.

Dr. Evans attained an uncommon degree of professional and civic success. By 1907 she is secure and confident enough to wield her success on behalf of her protégé, Melissa Thompson, also African American, by recommending her for a scholarship to her alma mater. By calling on WMCP to aid Thompson in her quest for a medical education, Evans advocates for Thompson, for herself, and perhaps most notably, for the African American community.

Creator: Evans, Matilda A. (Matilda Arabelle), d. 1935

Contributor: Jones, Alfred

Language: english

Item Number: a266_002

Pages: 2

Size: 21.5X23

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

Finding Aid:

Link to OPAC Record:

Cite this source: Title of document, date. Early African-American Woman Physicians: She has undertaken a Herculean task. 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.

Evans, Matilda A. (Matilda Arabelle), d. 1935

Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania

African American women physicians

Financial aid for minorities

Thompson, Melissa Evelyn, 1876-1940

Philadelphia (Pa.)