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Caryn E. Neumann

physician and activist, was born Lena Frances Edwards in Washington, D.C., the youngest of three children of Thomas Edwards, a professor of dentistry at Howard University, and Marie Coakley. Dissuaded from becoming a dentist by her father, the young Lena instead set her heart on a medical career. She graduated from Dunbar High School as valedictorian in 1918 and enrolled at Howard University. Her plans were nearly derailed when she fell victim to Spanish influenza during the deadly epidemic of 1918. Edwards managed to sufficiently recover to quickly resume her studies. The experience of narrowly escaping the “purple death” may have influenced Edwards to cram as much as possible into every hour of every day remaining to her. She took summer classes at the University of Pennsylvania and earned a bachelor's of science from Howard in June 1921 after only three years of study Accepted ...

Article

Amy M. Hay

Edwards’s service was also recognized in 1967 when she received the Poverello Medal, awarded to individuals whose lives followed the ideals of Saint Francis of Assisi. Blessed with financial and familial support, her ministry to poor European immigrants and Mexican migrants, her own life of voluntary poverty, and her service to the African American community all made her a worthy recipient of such honors. She spent a lifetime addressing the needs of the poor, women, students, and the aged.

Edwards was born in Washington, DC. Her parents, Thomas Edwards, a professor of dentistry at Howard University, and Marie Coakley Edwards, had three other children. Edwards grew up in a middle-class family, part of the capital’s elite society at the time. At an early age she decided she wanted to become a doctor. She attended Washington’s Dunbar High School, graduating in 1917 as valedictorian She attended Howard ...

Article

E. Beardsley

physician, was born in Aiken, South Carolina, the daughter of Anderson Evans and Hariett Corley, occupations unknown. Her improbable achievement of breaking through the hostile racial environment of post-Reconstruction South Carolina to become a physician was due largely to her drive and talent. It was also a tribute to certain outside influences at work in the South of her youth.

In 1868 moved by the current of interracial idealism that was galvanizing so many northern progressives the Philadelphia Quaker Martha Schofield had established in Aiken a school for colored youth Although it emphasized industrial skills the school also offered a sizable infusion of cultural and scientific subjects Evans won a place at Schofield s school and her performance was so impressive that it caught the notice of the Quaker benefactress who encouraged and aided the younger woman to continue on at the preparatory academy of Oberlin College ...

Article

Darlene Clark Hine

At the outset of the Great Depression in 1930, Dr. Matilda Arabella Evans launched a free-clinic movement that inspired the Columbia, South Carolina, black community to demand healthcare citizenship rights, even as the state became less inclined to adopt any progressive reform that would improve the material conditions of black lives. Dr. Evans, however, insisted that healthcare was a citizenship right that was every bit a state responsibility, as was public school education.

Matilda Arabella Evans was the eldest of three children born to Anderson and Harriet Evans in Aiken County, South Carolina She came of age during the tumultuous post Reconstruction era The New South held scant opportunities for social class mobility higher education and professional careers for black women But Evans was more fortunate than most She was one of the few desperately poor black women who managed to escape the lifelong consignment to domestic drudgery ...

Article

Michaeljulius Idani

nurse and U.S. Congresswoman, was born in Waco, Texas, the daughter of Edward Johnson, a Navy veteran and civil servant for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and Lillie Mae White Johnson, a homemaker and church organizer. Johnson was one of four children—sisters Ruth and Lee and brother Carl. The Johnsons were a tight-knit Christian family with a large extended family rooted in the Waco community. Johnson's parents instilled in their children a deep appreciation for education. Johnson's mother was an honor's graduate of AJ Moore High School in Waco, where Johnson would later attend and graduate in 1952.

By the early 1950s many segregationist laws had been enacted against African Americans and Hispanics Texas maintained separatist policies related to education and public and residential areas and few opportunities existed for Johnson to pursue higher education locally After graduation from high school she attended St ...

Article

Elizabeth D. Schafer

aerospace surgeon, was born at Fort Washikie, Wyoming, the son of Vance Hunter Marchbanks Sr., an army cavalry captain, and Mattie (maiden name unknown). Marchbanks Jr. was influenced by the military career of his father, who was a veteran of both the Spanish-American War and World War I. A childhood operation inspired Marchbanks's passion for medicine, after which he operated on cherries in his backyard, opening them up, removing the stones, and sewing shut the incision.

Marchbanks encountered discrimination when he enrolled at the University of Arizona in 1927. Not allowed to live in the dormitories or participate in normal student activities, he lived in an off-campus boardinghouse. He ate at the railroad station restaurant, where he was expected to enter through the back door and was harassed; he often found cockroaches in his soup. Marchbanks graduated in 1931 and was accepted at the Howard University ...

Article

Thomas Long

a nurse, was born into slavery and given the name Jensey (also spelled “Gensey” in the public record) Snow. She later took the name Jane Minor after being manumitted by her Petersburg, Virginia, slaveowner Benjamin Harrison May and becoming married to Lewis Minor. She demonstrated extraordinary nursing skill, courage, and generosity, first in attending to the sick during a fever epidemic (which prompted May's decision to free her), then in using the money she earned subsequently to purchase and free over a dozen other slaves, and in creating a hospital in Petersburg. She also became the mother-in-law of Joseph Jenkins Roberts, a former resident of Petersburg, the African American who became the first president of Liberia.

As the historian Todd L. Savitt notes health care in the antebellum South consisted of a varied landscape of sometimes competing sometimes complementary models and methods of care Trained allopathic ...

Article

Kenneth R. Manning

physician, microbiologist, and public health specialist, was born on a farm near Memphis, Tennessee, the son of Fred Poindexter and Luvenia Gilberta Clarke, tenant farmers. After attending the normal (teacher training) department of Swift Memorial College, a Presbyterian school for blacks in Rogersville, Tennessee (1916–1920), he entered Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and graduated with an AB cum laude in 1924. Also in 1924 he married Ruth Viola Grier, with whom he would have one child, a daughter. He attended Dartmouth Medical School for two years before earning an MD at Harvard University in 1929, an AM in Bacteriology at Columbia University in 1930, a PhD in Bacteriology and Parasitology at Columbia in 1932, and an MPH from Columbia in 1937.

Poindexter had hoped to proceed directly into public health fieldwork in 1929 following his graduation from Harvard ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

physician and public health reformer, was born in Beaufort, South Carolina, the third of five children of William J. Whipper, a judge and politician, and Frances A. Rollin, a writer born into Charleston’s free black elite. The stage actor Leigh Whipper was her brother. In her very early childhood Ionia grew up in one of the most prominent African American families in South Carolina. But the family suffered in the late 1870s after the end of Reconstruction finished William’s political career, and the judge’s gambling debts and drinking problem placed a significant financial burden on the family.

After her parents separated in 1880, Ionia, her brother Leigh, her sister Winifred, and her adopted brother Demps moved with their mother to Washington, D.C. Frances Rollin prominent in Washington s black literary and political circles found work in the office of her friend Washington s Recorder ...