State’s first female African-American doctor recognized
Dr. Eliza Ann Grier, an emancipated slave, worked her way through the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania a year on, a year off.
One year, she attended school. The next, she worked the cotton fields to raise tuition money for the coming year. She already had completed her studies at a teacher’s college, but wanted to become a doctor, specializing in obstetrics.
After seven years, in 1897, Dr. Grier completed medical school and she became the first female African-American doctor in the state of Georgia.
Sadly, after four years of medical practice, beginning in Fulton County, Dr. Grier passed away.
What a story.
Staff at the Crawford W. Long Museum in Jefferson and the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., thought so, as Dr. Grier is included in an exhibit on the history of black doctors for both museums.
Trudy McAfee, director of the CWL Museum, began research on the story of the black doctor a couple of years ago. When she began more recently putting together an exhibit, she learned that the Smithsonian was also interested, and that most related artifacts from museums everywhere had already been incorporated into that museum’s exhibit.
Still, because Dr. Grier’s specialty was obstetrics, the Crawford W. Long Museum staff has set up an exhibit, including details about Dr. Grier, as well as some of the collection’s obstetric medical equipment from that day.
Interestingly, Dr. Grier’s entry into the medical world in the late 1890s coincided with an increasing number of black doctor’s in the state of Georgia. According to information provided by the CWL Museum, the number of African-American doctors in the state was 27 in 1891; by 1930, the number had increased to 193.
The exhibit, The Healing Powers: History of the Black Doctor,” is on display in Jefferson now through the beginning of April. Jenny Lowe, assistant museum director, has researched other important Georgia doctors, and that information is included in the exhibit, as well.
Since February is Black History Month, along with Women’s History Month, McAfee said Dr. Grier’s story is particularly fitting. Then, because Doctor’s Day - in honor of Dr. Crawford W. Long - is recognized in March, the exhibit spans an array of “days.”
A number of events, including an upcoming Discovery Day for children (see related announcement in this section) are planned along with the exhibit. A Civil War reenactor will give a description of the medical conditions of the day, for example.
Other “important physicians in Georgia” recognized by the museum are Dr. Thomas Walter Josey, Dr. George Stoney, Dr. Alice Woodby McKane and Dr. Georgia R. Dwelle.
For more information, including museum hours and entrance fees, contact the Crawford W. Long Museum at 367-5307.