Doctor or Doctress?

Explore American history through the eyes of women physicians

« Read the full story

Page from clipping scrapbooks with clipping from The North American Medical Review regarding Eliza Grier ["Clizo" Ann Grier]. Eliza Anna Grier was an African American woman who graduated from Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1897.

Why It Matters

This account of Grier's licensing to practice in the state of Georgia treats her accomplishment and ambition as a novelty, pointedly noting her "coal black" skin and describing her as a "woman of quick wit, speaking well and giving evidence of good education." The fact that Grier's licensing was considered newsworthy, and that this article was reprinted in multiple newspapers around the country, reflects just how rare African American woman physicians were in the late 19th century.

Analyze this evidence

  • What are some of the words and phrases used by the author to describe Eliza ("Clizo") Grier that would not be used today? Why would we not use those words today? Why do you think the author used them in 1898?
  • According to the quote in the article, why does Grier say she decided to become a physician?

Listen to this document read aloud

Loading JW Player...
Coal Black Woman Doctor. – Clizo Ann Grier, a coal black negress, has been licensed to practice medicine by the Georgia board of state medical examiners. The board of white physicians were astonished when the negress presented herself for examination. It was the first application made to the board by a woman of her race, and she is the first colored woman admitted to practice in the state. She presented a diploma from the Woman’s Medical College of Philadelphia, and was found to be thoroughly informed in her profession. Dr. Grier said: “When I saw colored women doing all the work in cases of accouchment and all the fee going to some white doctor who merely looked on, I asked myself why should I not get the fee myself. For this purpose I have qualified. I went to Philadelphia, studied medicine hard, procured my degree, and have came back to Atlanta, where I have lived all my life, to practice my profession. Some of the best white doctors in the city have welcomed me, and say that they will give me an even chance in the profession. That is all I ask.” Dr. Grier is a woman of quick wit, speaking well and giving evidence of good education. She will hang out her shingle for general practice, and says she will make no discrimination on account of color.