Doctor or Doctress?

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Letter from Pauline E.  Dinkins, who graduated Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (WMCP) in 1919, to Martha Tracy, Dean of WMCP.

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

Born in 1935 in Marion, Alabama, Pauline Dinkins grew up in Selma, Alabama, the daughter of parents born into slavery. She experienced racism while a student at WMCP,  and wrote to Dean Martha Tracy about it shortly after she graduated in 1919. By September she had taken the Alabama  state licensing exam and went on to work as the resident physician  at the Tuskegee Institute (c. 1924-25)and later served as medical director of Brewer Hospital and Nurse training School in Greenwood, SC (1925 to  1927). In 1928 Dinkins served as a medical missionary to Liberia, but became ill and returned to Selma in 1929, where she opened a private medical practice. Dinkins dies in 1961. Martha Tracy graduated WMCP in 1904, and went on to become dean of the college 1917-1935. During her tenure as dean, Tracy often encountered difficulty placing African American WMCP graduates in hospital internships after graduation. Tracy advocated for these students by writing letters  on their behalf and raising the issue with leaders of the medical community.

In the early and mid-twentieth century, educational opportunities available to African-Americans were not equal to those available to whites. Even at schools that accepted African-Americans as students, there was racial discrimination. In this letter, Dinkins explains why she felt discriminated against at WMCP.

Creator: Dinkins, Pauline

Contributor: Tracy, Martha, 1876-1942

Language: english

Item Number: a266_005

Pages: 4

Size: 12.5X20

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.

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

African American medical students

African American women physicians


Selma (Al.)

Philadelphia (Pa.)