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HIDDEN LEGACIES: II. EARLY FEMALE PHYSICIANS IN ALABAMA

 

HIDDEN LEGACIES

 

I. EARLY AFRICAN-AMERICAN PHYSICIANS IN ALABAMA
See http://sites.google.com/site/earlyblackdocsalabama/ 
Background of the project etc at this site


II. EARLY FEMALE PHYSICIANS IN ALABAMA

 

A.J. Wright, M.L.S.
Clinical Librarian

Department of Anesthesiology
School of Medicine
University of Alabama at Birmingham
619 19th Street South, JT965
Birmingham AL 35249-6810

205--975-0158 [voice]
205-975-5963 [fax]

ajwright@uab.edu



II. EARLY FEMALE PHYSICIANS IN ALABAMA

 

Introduction

Louisa Shepard of Dadeville, Alabama, was the first southern woman to be awarded a medical degree from a southern institution. She graduated from the Graefenberg Medical Institute operated in Dadeville by her father, Dr. Philip Madison Shepard, from 1852 until 1861. The school was chartered by the Alabama legislature. The female Dr. Shepard apparently received much resistance to her medical practice, and soon moved to Texas to marry and raise a family. (1-2)

Two black female physicians worked for relatively brief periods at Tuskegee Institute. Halle Tanner Dillon, born in Pittsburgh in 1864, came to Tuskegee in 1891, the year she graduated from the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania, and received Alabama state board certification. Until she left Alabama later in the decade, Dr. Dillon provided care to the Institute's 450 students and the 30 officers, teachers and their families. Ionia R. Whipper, a 1903 graduate of Howard Medical School, came to Tuskegee that same year and spent a few years as physician to female students only. (3)

Other women known to have practiced in Alabama before about 1915 include Ella Elizabeth Barnes, an 1893 graduate of the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania, who received her certification that year from the Jefferson County Board of Medical Examiners and appeared on the county medical society membership roll for 1893-94. Dicia Houston Baker, who graduated from Cincinnati's Louvra Memorial Women's College in 1889, received certification from the same board in 1899 and appeared on the county medical society rolls from 1901 until 1905. That these two female physicians were members of the local medical society during these decades seems an unusual situation worth further investigation.

According to the Transactions of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama in the late 1890s and early 1900s, several other women were certified to practice in the state: Irene Ballon Bullard (Birmingham), Laura Evelyn Burton (Mobile), Justina Lorena Ford (Madison County), Orcema Simenia Fowler (Marion County), Ellen Lee Baret Ligon (Mobile), Alexandria Hamilton Oden (Cullman County), Edith Mindwell Phelps, and Blanche Beatrice Thompson (Tallapoosa County). A few other women are listed as being refused certification by either the state or county boards. (4) Seven other women physicians (including one member of the American Medical Association!) appear in a directory of U.S. women physicians published in 1910. (5)

In recent years some research has been published that examines female physicians in America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. (6-14 ) This paper will identify and examine the female physicians practicing in Alabama during this period and attempt to place them in larger regional and national contexts.

1. Bass E. Pioneer women doctors in the South. J Am Med Women's Assoc 2:556-560, 1947

2. Turner RH. Graefenberg, the Shepard family's medical school. Ann Med Hist series 2. 5:548-560-, 1933

3. Hine DC. Co-laborers in the work of the Lord: nineteenth-century black women physicians. In: Abram RJ, ed. Send Us a Lady Physician: Women Doctors in America, 1835-1920. New York: Norton, 1985, 114

4. Transactions of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama, 1894, 1899, 1901-1905

5. Directory of women physicians in California, Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Georgia, Arkansas and Colorado. Women's Med J 20(6):132-136, June 1910

6. Drachman VG. Women doctor's and the women's medical movement: feminism and medicine, 1850-1895. Ph.D. dissertation, State University of New York, Buffalo, 1976

7. Drachman VG. Female solidarity and professional success: the dilemma of women doctors in late nineteenth-century America. J Soc Hist 15(4):607-619, 1982

8. Drachman VG. The limits of progress: the professional lives of women doctors, 1881-1926. Bull Hist Med 60:58-72, 1986

9. More E. The Blackwell Medical Society and the professional of women physicians. Bull Hist Med 61:603-628, 1987

10. Draeger IJ. Women as physicians in the United States, 1850-1900. Bull Hist Med 16:72-81, 1944

11. Erickson SS. The image of the woman physician in ten Victorian American novels, 1871-1886. M.D. thesis, Yale University, 1991

12. Kaufman M. The admission of women to 19th-century medical societies. Bull Hist Med 50:251-260, 1976

13. Shifrin S. "The worst are women doctors": nineteenth-century attitudes toward the appearance and professionalism of women physicians. Trans Stud Coll Physicians Phila 16(5):47-65, 1994

14. Elder NC, Schwarzer A. Fictional women physicians in the nineteenth century: the struggle for self-identity. J Med Human 17(3):165-177, 1996


  

*Louisa Shepard, M.D.

    In 1836 Dr. Philip Madison Shepard, a Georgia native and graduate of the Georgia Medical College in Augusta, moved his wife and infant son John to Lafayette, Alabama. Over the next eight years Dr. Shepard established a medical practice and founded a "Students Institute" that helped prepare young men for medical school. In 1845 he and his family moved to Wetumpka, where he also lectured, organized medical debates,  and performed anatomical dissection on cadavers. Late the following year the Shepards moved yet again and settled in Dadeville, a newly-incorporated town of about 700 in Tallapoosa County. Here Dr. Shepard bought some land, built a house and began to established a medical practice in his new home. Like many rural physicians of his time, Shepard also farmed to supplement his medical income. [Turner Roy H. Graefenberg, the Shepard family's medical school. Ann Med Hist series 2. 5:548-560-, 1933; a PDF version of this article is here;  and Holley, Howard L. The History of Medicine in Alabama. Birmingham: University of Alabama School of Medicine, 1982, pp 77-81]

    By the summer of 1851 Dr. Shepard began his most ambitious efforts in medical education. He advertised the opening in Dadeville of the "Graefenberg Infirmary and Hydropathic Establishment" in a Montgomery newspaper. In February of the following year the Alabama legistature chartered his "Graefenberg Medical Institute of the State of Alabama, " whose graduates "were entitled to all the privileges accorded graduates of leading Medical Colleges."
[Acts of Alabama, 7 February 1852, p260] Although other schools had been chartered by the legislature, the Graefenberg Medical Institute became the first medical school to actually open in Alabama. The board of trustees included several relatives of Shepard and his wife. Also connected to this enterprise was the Winston Male College, which had a military department with state-supplied arms; and the Octavia Walton Lee Vert Normal College for Young Ladies that trained school teachers.

    In the early national and antebellum periods, medical education became more widely available in America. In the first three and a half decades after the founding of the country's first medical school, Medical College of Philadelphia, in 1765, the few small medical schools graduated less that 250 doctors. By the 1850s almost 18,000 physicians graduated in that decade alone; the 1830s had produced some 6800 doctors. [Cassedy, James H. Medicine in America: A Short History. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991, p 27] These huge numbers were not simply a function of growing population. After about 1815 new medical schools were often independent of colleges and medical societies. Faculty operated the schools for profit, and almost anyone who paid the fees could graduate. Critics of the day accused the schools of "business hucksterism" little connected with scientific education. Facilities of most schools were quite poor, and students were trained by lectures with little or no clinical exposure to sick people. Despite the explosion in number of these schools after 1830, only seven medical schools opened in the South before that year. Yet this constituted over half the thirteen founded in the entire U.S. prior to 1830. [Yeager, George H. Medical schools of Southern United States, 1779-1830. Ann Surg 171(5):623-640, May 1970]  Of course, many "doctors" of this period did not attend medical school at all, but merely served a brief apprenticeship with a local physician.

    Given this situation, Dr. Shepard's Graefenberg Medical Institute was a remarkable medical school both for the time and its location in a small town in a very rural state. The medical and other schools occupied a large, three-story building that contained numerous anatomical specimens, a decent library, around 1,000 photographic plates, laboratory and medical equipment, a mineral cabinet, and classrooms and auditorium. Students saw patients in the infirmary or followed Dr. Shepard as he visited the sick in their homes. Students boarded with Dr. Shepard and his family. Two sessions were offered May to October and November to March at the rate of sixty dollars; cheaper rates were available for summer students. Only one session was required to graduate; however, the student had to pass a final examination open to the public that the Board of Trustees administered over three days and nights and which   included over 5,000 questions.

   About fifty students graduated from this school before Dr. Shepard's death closed it in 1861. Near the end of the century several of these graduates were still practicing medicine in Alabama: John F. Wise (1856) in Chilton County; S.H. Dennis (1858) in Pike County; Anderson Welcome Duke (1849 [sic]) and Erastus Hood McLendon in Randolph County; and Orlando Tyler Shepard (1854),  Watt Francis Smith (1854),   and Philip M. Shepard (1854) in Tallapoosa County.   [Transactions of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama (abbreviated Trans MASA hereafter) 1898, pp. 162, 213, 214, 221] John Calhoun Aikens (1846 [sic]) was listed as practicing in Macon County as late as 1904. [Trans MASA 1904, p. 546] In all likelihood the school would have closed during the Civil War anyway. In 1873 the building burned and the library, equipment, specimens and records were all destroyed. Yet among the school's graduates were three sons--John, Philip Madison, Jr., and Orlando Tyler--who joined their father on the school's faculty, and a daughter, Louisa, who was "[t]he first Southern woman to receive a degree as Doctor of Medicine from a southern school." [Bass, Elizabeth H. Pioneer women doctors in the South. J Am Med Women's Assoc 2(12): 556-560, December 1947] The female Dr. Shepard was prevented from joining her father and brothers on the faculty by opposition of the day to both female doctors and professors. Apparently Louisa could not establish a practice in the area, either; she soon married and left for Texas with her husband, William Henry Presley. She died in Beaumont in 1901.



    Dr. Louisa Shepard was not the first female physician in the South. Mary Lavinder specialized in obstetrics and diseases of children in Savannah, Georgia, from about 1814 until her death in 1845. Sarah E. Adams practiced in Augusta, Georgia, for some years prior to her death in 1846. Elizabeth Cohen, an 1857 graduate of the Woman's Medical College of Philadelphia, began practice in New Orleans about the same time that Louisa was studying medicine in Dadeville, Alabama.  [Bass, Elizabeth H. Pioneer women doctors in the South. J Am Med Women's Assoc 2(12): 556-560, December 1947] Yet female physicians remained a rarity all over the United States until late in the 19th century. 
                                                                               

Photo courtesy of the Lake Martin Journal 


                                                       


Medical school's founder and family are buried in unmarked grave near school's site off Dudleyville Road (Lafayette Street). Photo courtesy of the Lake Martin Journal.

 

 

Graefenberg Medical Institute articles, etc. [in order of publication]

 

*Grafenberg Medical Institute. In: Owens, Thomas. History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography, Chicago,, 1921, volume 1: 665-666

 

*Turner RH. Graefenberg, the Shepard Family’s Medical School. Annals of Medical History series 2, volume 5: 548-560, 1933

 

*Ingram, William P. Grafenberg, the first medical school in Alabama. In: Ingram WP. A History of Tallapoosa County, 1951, pp 44-51

 

*Shepard, Ina. Alabama’s First Medical School; Marker Placed at Dadeville, Alabama, by the Alabama Historical Association, August 26, 1953 [She was Philip M. Shepard’s granddaughter]

 

*Holley HL. Dr. Philip Madison Shepard and his Medical School. De Historia Medicinae 2(3): 1-5, February 1958

 

*Altes T. Philip Madison Shepard, 1812-1861. Southern Medical Bulletin 57: 64-69, June 1969

 

*Thompson JA, Kronenfeld MR. Graefenberg Medical Institute. Ala J Med Sci 16(4): 350-352, 1979

 

*Schafer, Elizabeth D. Lake Martin: Alabama’s Crown Jewel. Arcadia, 2003, pp 40-41 [no footnotes, but her source seems to be Ingram; his book is listed in her bibliography]

 

 

*Elizabeth Blackwell,M.D. [1821-1910]

 

    Only a few years earlier Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to graduate from a medical school in the United States. Blackwell was born in February, 1821, in a small town near the English seaport of Bristol. Here father Samuel owned a sugar refinery, and supported political and school reform as well as equal rights for women. When his refinery burned, he decided to leave the unrest and deteriorating economy in England behind. In the summer of 1832, Samuel, his wife Hannah and their children boarded a packet ship to America. By the time she was seventeen, the family had settled in Cincinnati, Ohio. Samuel soon died; and Hannah decided to remain and opened a school at which Elizabeth and two older sisters taught. The school operated for three years.  Elizabeth then taught for a year in Henderson, Kentucky, but conditions of slavery there so upset her that she returned home. A friend, Mary Donaldson, was dying with cancer, and told Elizabeth she might have suffered less under the care of a woman doctor. She told Elizabeth to study medicine.

    Elizabeth Blackwell thus began her long struggle to obtain a medical education. Because family finances were tight, she moved to Ashville, North Carolina, in June 1845 to teach music at a school operated by Reverend John Dickson, who had once practiced medicine and had a sizeable medical library. Dickson closed his school the following year, and recommended her to Dr. Samuel H. Dickson of Charleston, South Carolina, who agreed to aid her studies while she taught and saved money for medical school tuition. By 1848 Elizabeth had begun sending applications; twenty-eight schools refused to admit her. She finally applied to Geneva Medical College in New York. The faculty did not want to offend Dr. Joseph Warrington, the prominent Philadelphia physician who wrote Blackwell's letters of support. So they decided to put the issue to a vote of the 150 students, who would surely reject a woman applicant. The students sensed a joke, and voted to accept Blackwell.

    Thus the first woman student was admitted to medical school in the U.S. She managed to endure the shocked sensibilities and insults of the school faculty and students as well as townspeople to graduate at the head of her class in January, 1849. Yet one of her diary entries from the previous month had noted, "I felt alone. I must work by myself all life long."
[Blackwell, Elizabeth. Pioneer Work in Opening the Medical Profession to Women: Autobiographical Sketches by Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell. New York: Schocken, 1977, p. 72 Rpt. 1895 ed.] Blackwell spent two years in Paris and London gaining clinical experience, and then returned to New York to set up a practice. She never married, and retired from medicine in 1894; she died and was buried in the Scottish village of Kilman in 1910. [Gearin, Louis Murphy. The giant little woman: Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman US medical graduate. Journal of Medical Biography 6:89-96, 1998; Abram, Ruth J. Will There Be a Monument? Six Pioneer Women Doctors Tell Their Own Stories. In: Ruth J. Abram, ed. "Send Us a Lady Physician:" Women Doctors in America, 1835-1920. New York: W.W. Norton, 1985, pp 72-76] Emily Blackwell had followed her older sister into medicine, and graduated from Chicago's Rush Medical College in 1854. After two years in Europe, Emily joined her sister in New York City. Emily also died in 1910; by that time, there were more than 7,000 female doctors in the U.S.

    The Blackwell sisters, Louisa Shephard, and the few other antebellum women "orthodox" physicians in American achieved some support from individuals and institutions, but their efforts and presence in the medical profession were resisted and criticized. Before the Civil War a number of sectarian or irregular medical sects--such as the Thomsonians and Eclectics--were training women doctors, but these were not accepted by orthodox practitioners and societies. Women physicians at this time challenged the role of females in society, where outside the home or field women were restricted to teaching young children or factory work. Such doctors challenged orthodox medicine, both as females trying to enter a male profession and as a practitioner of an irregular medicine not to be adopted. Finally, the women's rights movement of the 1840s and 1850s formed the demands for even wider participation by women in the affairs of society.
[Blake, John B. Women and medicine in ante-bellum America. Bulletin of the History of Medicine 39(2):99-123, March-April 1965] Both regular and sectarian female doctors formed what has been termed a "women's medical movement" that challenged orthodox medicine both in medical education and treatment of female patients. [Virginia G. Drachman, "Women Doctors and the Women's Medical Movement: Feminism and Medicine 1850-1895." Ph.D. dissertation, University of New York at Buffalo, 1976] Women were also considered to be physically and mentally unfit for medical training, and their attempts to receive it were met by the same objections as attempts by women to enter other areas of American life outside the home. [Susan Shifrin, "The worst are women-doctors": nineteenth century attitudes toward the appearance and professionalism of women physicians. Transactions and Studies of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia 16(5):47-65, 1994]

   Yet not all reactions from regular male doctors during this period were negative, and during "the last quarter of the nineteenth century, even the more conservative men physicians appear to have recognized the futility of attempts to bar women altogether from the profession." [Shifrin, p58]  One prominent Philadelphia physician, Alfred Stille, seemed enthusiastic. He began his lecture to medical students gathered in the surgical ampitheater of Philadelphia hospital on January 2, 1869, with the historic greeting, "Ladies and Gentlemen" and further noted "...so far as I am personally concerned, I not only have no objection to seeing ladies among a medical audience, but, on the other hand, I welcome them." [Clara Marshall, The Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania. An Historical Outline. Philadelphia: P. Bkakiston, 1897, p17] In the 1840s Stille had been one of the founders of the American Medical Association, and served as its President in 1871. He had a private practice in Philadelphia for many years and was a professor at the Pennsylvania Medical College from 1864 until 1883. [R. Edwards, Stille, Alfred. In Martin Kaufman, Stuart Galishoff, Todd L. Savitt, eds., Dictionary of American Medical Biography. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1984, 2:720-721] Final acceptance of women among the ranks of regular physicians, however reluctant it might be for many physicians,  required the approval of such leaders as Stille.

   

*Women healers throughout history


   In earlier centuries women had much wider roles in medicine in many cultures. Evidence from ancient Egypt and Thebes suggests that women were admitted to medical schools and performed surgery. [Pastena, Janis A. Women in Surgery: An Ancient Tradition. Archives of Surgery 128(6):622-626, June 1993]  Throughout Europe during the middle ages women were excluded from the university training which male physicians received, yet served important nursing roles in hospitals and served as midwives. Although physicians were almost exclusively male, women did receive apprentice training as apothecaries and surgeons and achieved membership in the guilds for those trades. [Minkowski, William L. Women Healers of the Middle Ages: Selected Aspects of Their History. American Journal of Public Health 82(2):288-295, February 1992] Around 1408 a woman named Johanna appears on the Infirmarer's Rolls of Westminster Abbey; she was paid 40 shillings to provide medical care for 10 monks for one year. [Gordon, J. Elise. Some Women Practitioners of Past Centuries. Practitioner 208:561-567, April 1972] A number of female "surgeonesses" are known to have practiced in England and on the continent from the 15th century until well into the 18th, despite efforts by male counterparts to exclude them from practice. Some even obtained licenses.  [Wyman, A.L. The Surgeoness: The Female Practitioner of Surgery 1400-1800. Medical History 28: 22-41, 1984]


*Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania opens in 1850

    Within fifteen years after Elizabeth Blackwell graduated from medical school in 1848, several other milestones in the history of women physicians in America had occurred. On March 11, 1850, the Pennsylvania legislature passed an act to incorporate the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania---the first regular medical school for women in America. The Philadelphia institution was founded by four physicians and four philanthropists, several of whom were Quakers. By August of that year the men had rented space at 229 Arch Street and were seeking local physicians to join the faculty. Most established doctors of the city would not associate with this radical new enterprise; and of those physicians who did "most were young and inexperienced as medical teachers." [Steven J. Peitzman, A New and Untried Course: Woman's Medical College and Medical College of Pennsylvania, 1850-1998.  New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2000, p14). On October 12 forty students were greeted by six faculty. In December of the following year eight women formed the first graduating class.

    Within three years Hannah Longshore and Ann Preston, members of that first class, had joined the faculty. In 1867 the school became the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania and managed to survive the changes in medical education in the early 20th century that forced many marginal schools, including numerous ones for women and African-Americans, to close. In 1970 the school became the coeducational Medical College of Pennsylvania. This school provided Alabama with several early female physicians.


Other Achievements After 1850


    Other important events related to women physicians soon followed the establishment of the Female Medical Institute. On May 1, 1857, Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell opened the New York Infirmary for Women and Children---the first hospital in the United States operated by women. In 1861 Quaker women founded the Woman's Hospital of Philadelphia to provide the Female Medical Institute with better clinical opportunities. Rebecca Lee became the first African-American female physician to graduate from a medical school when she finished studies at the New England Female Medical College in Boston in 1864. By 1900 about a dozen black women had graduated from the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania and more than 100 had finished at U.S. medical schools. [Darlene Clark Hine, "Co-laborers in the work of the Lord: nineteenth-century black women physicians." In Ruth J. Abram, ed. "Send Us a Lady Physician:" Women Doctors in America, 1835-1920. New York: W.W. Norton, 1985, p107] After the Civil War medical schools such as those at the University of Michigan and the University of Iowa began to admit women students on a scattered basis. Yet, "[b]y 1893 only 37 out of the 105 regular institutions accepted them. Many of these were part of the major state universities, most of which were founded after the Civil War and were obligated by their charters to provide coeducation." [Regina Markell Morantz-Sanchez, Sympathy and Science: Women Physicians in American Medicine. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985, p.65] Additional women's medical schools opened in large cities such as Chicago, Baltimore, and Boston. In 1892 the medical school at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore opened and included women in its first class. By 1881, seventeen state medical societies accepted women. Massachusetts was the first (1869), followed by Kansas, Iowa and North Carolina in 1872.

    In 1890 more than 4500 female physicians were counted in the U.S. census; a decade later the number had risen to over 7300.  [U.S. Department of Commerce and Labor. Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1911. 34th ed. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1912, p235] These numbers represent just over 4 per cent and 5.6 percent respectively of the total number of U.S. physicians counted by the census for these years. These early figures have been disputed; one recent estimate counts 3400 female physicians in 1900, or 2.5 percent of the total. [Thomas Neville Bonner, To the Ends of the Earth: Women's Search for Education in Medicine. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992, p. 203, n.92]. Between the early 1920s and early 1940s women students were limited to only 5% of American medical school admissions. [Weiskotten HG. Forty-second annual presentation of educational data by the Council on Medical Education and Hospitals. JAMA 119: 1263, August 25, 1942] By 1941, only about 8000 female physicians were practicing in the U.S. In fact, the number of female physicians in the U.S. remained in the four to six percent range until the 1960s.

*Table 1: Number of U.S. physicians

Year

Total

Male

Female

1890

104,805

100,248

4,557

1900

132,002

124,615

7,387

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce and Labor. Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1911. 34th ed. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1912, p235


*Alabama Medical Practice Act of 1877


    The achievement of Lousia Shephard in antebellum Alabama is an important but anomalous one. Another woman did not join the ranks of regular physicians in the state until 1891. By that time the 1823 law which had governed medical practice had been replaced by the considerably stronger Alabama Medical Practice Act of 1877. [For the following discussion I am indebted to Howard Holley, The Historyof Medicine in Alabama. Birmingham, Ala.: University of Alabama School of Medicine, 1982, pp 252-261] Under the 1823 act, five medical boards were created in the state to license physicians by annual examination. The examination fee was five dollars and the license fee was the same. Examinations were apparently not very difficult. The act also had several exceptions that severely compromised its strength. Individuals practicing medicine in Alabama before 1823 were exempted from examination, as well as anyone who had practiced in another state for at least two years or graduated from a "regular" medical school. Also, the legislature passed numerous acts exempting individuals from the law. Thus the 1823 act provided minimal regulation at best of medical practice.

    By the early 1870s Dr. Jerome Cochran had developed a plan to reorganize the state medical association that was approved by members. The reorganization created a Board of Censors at both the state and county medical society levels to govern those bodies. The 1877 act incorporated this structure into regulation of medical practice in Alabama. The law granted to the Medical Association of the State of Alabama the power to regulate by examination medical practice in the state. However, county society boards of censors were also allowed to examine applicants and licenses issued locally were valid throughout the state. Any applicant wishing to practice in Alabama could take the exam before the state Board of Censors in Montgomery or at any county board he or she chose. The annual volumes of the Transactions of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama provide lists of examinees at both the state and county levels and note whether the applicant passed or not. Based on the large numbers of individuals who were examined at state and county boards each year, we can assume that the tests did not differ substantially in difficulty at the two levels. Presumably, if county tests--or tests in particular counties--were significantly easier than the examination in Montgomery, few applicants would have taken the test before the state board.


*Halle Tanner Dillon, M.D. [1864-1901]

 


    On August 17, 1891, a young woman named Halle Tanner Dillon appeared before the state Board of Censors in Montgomery to begin her examination. In 1872 and 1880 two Alabama physicians, Paul de Lacy Baker and J.S. Weatherly, had expressed opposition to women physicians in speeches at the state medical association's annual meeting. [ J.S. Weatherly, "Woman: Her Rights and Her Wrongs." Trans MASA 1872, pp 63-80; Paul de Lacy Baker, "Shall Women be Admitted into the Medical Profession?" Trans MASA 1880, pp 191-206] Yet in April, 1889, Dr. Ruffin Coleman of Birmingham delivered the annual oration at the medical association's meeting and demonstrated a very different attitude. "Public opinion generally is against me, and our profession has ever been in an attitude of persistent hostility to the admission of woman into the higher learning and professions," Coleman noted. He observed that he understood such disagreements, and told the assembled Alabama physicians, "Rest assured, too, that it is not from any defect in my esteem of my honored profession that I deem woman worthy to enter its sacred precincts." Yet Coleman noted, "In medicine woman has made her way through the trials of ward and dissecting room to honorable distinction, and several, like Drs. Mary Putnam Jacobi and Grace Peckham have added lustre to our profession." After developing his arguments, Coleman summarized them at the end of his speech. "In justice, then, to woman's inalienable rights to freedom of choice; and in justice to her many intellectual triumphs of the past; in behalf of her own physical and mental elevation, and in behalf of the infinite good that will ensue for the entire human family from this elevation, I hold that woman should be admitted to all the higher privileges of academic and professional life." [Coleman, Ruffin. "Annual Oration." Transactions of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama, 1889, pp 235, 245, 246] So by 1891 the physicians who determined access to medical licensure in Alabama were apparently ready to examine a female candidate.

    Halle Dillon was born on October 17, 1864, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Benjamin Tucker Tanner, an AME minister and editor of church publications.
[The following biography is based on Smith, Carney Jessie. Johnson, Halle Tanner. In: Darlene Clark Hine, ed. Facts on File Encyclopedia o Black Women in America: Science, Health and Medicine. New York: Facts on File, 1997] Halle was the eldest daughter among nine children; two died in infancy. Older brother Henry Ossawa (1859-1937) became a well-known painter of landscape and religious subjects. Halle married Charles E. Dillon of Trenton, New Jersey, in June 1886. Daughter Sadie was born the following year. Charles died soon after the birth of Sadie, and Halle and her child returned home. At age 24 Halle entered the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania; she was the only African-American in her class and graduated with honors on May 7, 1891.

    Booker T. Washington had written the college dean, Dr. Clara Marshall, about his need for a resident physician at Tuskegee Institute. Dr. Marshall must have brought the letter to Halle's attention, since she wrote Washington. The educator responded with a description of the position at Tuskegee. She was to begin on September 1, 1891, but she had to pass the Alabama certification exam first.

 

Booker T. Washington

[from the 1901 edition of Up From Slavery: An Autobiography]


    Washington knew how difficult passing the exam would be for Dr. Dillon; she would have to spend several days answering hundreds of questions from the white members of the board of examiners. So Washington arranged for her to study with Montgomery physician Cornelius Nathaniel Dorsette. Born in North Carolina in the early 1850s, Dorsette had been a classmate of Washington's at Hampton Institute and graduated from the University of Buffalo Medical School in 1882. Washington then persuaded Dr. Dorsette to come south and set up practice as the first licensed African-American physician in Montgomery and one of the first in the state. As far as I have been able to determine, only Dr. Burgess E. Scruggs of Huntsville preceded him. [Trans MASA 1880, p. 101] In 1890, Dr. Dorsette founded Hale Infirmary, the first hospital for African-Americans in Alabama which operated until 1958. Dr. Dorsette also served on the Board of Trustees of Tuskegee Institute from 1883 until his death in 1897.. [Cobb, W. Montague. Cornelius Nathaniel Dorsette, M.D., 1852-1897. Journal of the National Medical Association 52: 456-459, November 1960; Savitt, T. Dorsette, Cornelius Nathaniel. In: Martin Kaufman, Stuart Galishoff, Todd L. Savitt, eds. Dictionary of American Medical Biography. 2 vols. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1984, p211]

    After her period of study with Dr. Dorsette, Dillon sat for the medical licensure examination. Among the three references Dillon had listed was Dr. Clara Marshall, her medical school dean. The test began in Montgomery on August 17, 1891, and concluded on August 25. During those days she was examined on ten subjects by ten different examiners. [Alabama State Board of Medical Examiners. Examination Papers in the Case of Halle Tanner Dillon, MD. August 1891. Alabama Department of Archives and History.] Among those examiners were some of the most prominent physicians in Alabama.

    Dr. Peter Bryce, superintendent of Alabama Hospital for the Insane since 1860, tested her on medical jurisprudence. Dr. Jerome Cochran, state health officer and the primary force behind the Medical Licensure Act of 1877, examined Dr. Dillon in chemistry. Her examiner in natural history and diagnosis of diseases was Dr. George A. Ketchum, Dean of the Medical College of Alabama from 1885 until his death in 1906; he was also involved in creating the Medical Association of the State of Alabama in 1847. Dr. James T. Searcy, her examiner in hygiene, became superintendent of the state's hospital for the insane the following year after Dr. Bryce's death. Dillon was examined in obstetrical operations by Dr. J.B. Gaston, who had served as president of the state medical association in 1882.

    Dillon passed the examinations. As the Transactions of the state medical association noted in its annual report of examination results, "The case of H.T. Dillon is remarkable as that of the first colored woman examined in the state."
[Trans MASA 1892, p. 128] Dr. Dillon served at Tuskegee from September 1, 1891, until sometime in 1894. "During her tenure she was responsible for the medical care of 450 students as well as for 30 officers and teachers and their families. Johnson was expected to make her own medicines, while teaching one or two classes each term. For her efforts she was paid six hundred dollars per year plus room and board; she was allowed one one-month vacation per year." [Hine DC. Co-laborers in the work of the Lord: nineteenth-century black women physicians. In: Abram RJ, ed. Send Us a Lady Physician: Women Doctors in America, 1835-1920. New York: Norton, 1985, 114]

    In 1894 Dillon married Rev. John Quincy Johnson, a mathematics teacher at Tuskegee. The following year Rev. Johnson was named President of Allen University in Columbia, South Carolina. In 1900 he became pastor of an AME church in Nashville. The Johnsons had three sons. Dr. Johnson died on April 26, 1901, of dysentery and childbirth complications; she was 37. She is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Nashville. Apparently Dr. Halle Tanner Dillon Johnson ceased the practice of medicine after her second marriage. [Smith, Carney Jessie. Johnson, Halle Tanner. In: Darlene Clark Hine, ed. Facts on File Encyclopedia o Black Women in America: Science, Health and Medicine. New York: Facts on File, 1997]

    The state medical society's transactions had noted that Dillon was the first African-American woman examined in Alabama; does that phrasing imply that the board had previously examined a white woman? At some point between April, 1891 and  April, 1892, Dr. Anna M. Longshore took the certification examination, but did not pass. [Trans MASA 1892, p142] One source claims that Dr. Longshore remained in Alabama to practice without a license, but that has not been confirmed.  [Smith, Carney Jessie. Johnson, Halle Tanner. In: Darlene Clark Hine, ed. Facts on File Encyclopedia o Black Women in America: Science, Health and Medicine. New York: Facts on File, 1997]. What is known is that Dr. Longshore came to Alabama to take that examination after a long career in medicine elsewhere.

    Anna Mary Longshore was born in Langhorne, Pennsylvania on April 16, 1829. She was a member of the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania's first graduating class, finishing with seven other graduates in December, 1851. She established a practice in Philadelphia, but health problems forced her to return to Langhorne in 1857. There she met and married businessman Lambert Potts. Within a few years Dr. Longshore-Potts, as she called herself, had moved to Adrian, Michigan, and developed a lucrative practice. Since she felt that preventing disease was an important part of a physician's duty, she began to give talks on health topics to private groups of her patients. By 1876 Dr. Longshore-Potts had moved her talks to public venues. These efforts were so successful that she took her lectures on women's health topics on the road, appearing to great acclaim in San Francisco in 1881, followed by other west coast cities.

    In May, 1883, Dr. Longshore-Potts sailed to New Zealand to begin a lecture tour there. She did not return to the United States until October, 1887. In those years she lectured to large crowds not only in New Zealand, but Australia and Great Britain as well. Her lectures continued in the United States, and she also self-published at least two books on related topics.
[Willard, Frances Elizabeth. A Woman of the Century: Fourteen Hundred-Seventy Biographical Sketches Accompanied by Portraits of Leading American Women in All Walks of Life. Buffalo: Moulton, 1893, pp 586-587;   Longshore-Potts, Anna. Love, Courtship, and Marriage. San Diego: by author, 1891; Longshore-Potts, Anna. Discourses to Women on Medical Subjects. San Diego: by author, 1897] She finally settled in San Diego, where she owned some property and had built a house. Dr. Longshore-Potts helped found the Paradise Valley Sanitarium in that city. She died of "senile debility" on October 24, 1912. [Obituary: Longshore-Potts, Anna Mary. Journal of the American Medical Association 59(20):1809, 1912]

    Thus when she came to Alabama in 1891 or 1892 to take the physician certification exam, Dr. Longshore-Potts had already established a successful career as a doctor, followed by another career as medical lecturer that had made her both famous and wealthy. We can only speculate as to why this successful  woman, in her early 60s, took this arduous test under her maiden name. Perhaps Dr. Longshore-Potts saw herself as some sort of pioneer in this situation; yet what is known about her activities elsewhere does not give us a portrait of a radical reformer.

*After Dr. Dillon


    During the 1890s a few other female physicians began practices in Alabama.

 [Additional material to be added here!!]

    Another physician who appeared in Alabama at this time was Ionia R. Whipper. "In 1903, Ionia R. Whipper, a member of the 1903 graduating class of Howard Medical School, succeeded Johnson and became the second black woman resident physician at Tuskegee Institute. Reflecting social change, however, Whipper was restricted to the care of female students at the institute. After leaving Tuskegee, Whipper returned to Washington, D.C., where she established a home to care for unwed, pregnant, school-age black girls." [Hine DC. Co-laborers in the work of the Lord: nineteenth-century black women physicians. In: Abram RJ, ed. Send Us a Lady Physician: Women Doctors in America, 1835-1920. New York: Norton, 1985, 114] So far, I have been unable to confirm Whipper's presence at Tuskegee. She is not listed among Macon County physicians for either 1903 or 1904 in the Transactions of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama.

 [Additional material to be added here!!]

 


 

 

   

Table 2: Early Female Physicians in Alabama

Name

b/d dates

medical college

county

city

certification/date

Atkinson C

?-10/16/1932

Univ Iowa

Baldwin

Fairhope

"retired" ca. 1910

Baker D

1863(5)?-1907

Laura Mem Woman's MC Cincinnati

Jefferson

Birmingham

county/1898[9?]

Barnes E

?-6/1898

Woman's MC Penn

Jefferson

Birmingham

county/1893

Barfield JM

?-6/1937 [?]

Atlanta Col Phys Surgs

Clay

Lineville

county/1901

Bascom A

?-1909

 

Madison

Huntsville

 

Board O

 

 

Jefferson

Birmingham

 

Bullard IB

 

Univ Mich

Jefferson

Birmingham

county/1905

Burton L

b. Jan. 12, 1876
d. April 9, 1906

Hosp Med Coll
Louisville

Mobile

Mobile

county/1904 or 5

Chapman N

 

Am Sch Osteo

 

 

state refused, 1902

Craighead F

 

Boston U

Mobile

Mobile

 

Dillon H

1864-1901

Woman's MC Penn

Macon

Tuskegee Inst

state/1891

Dinkins P

 

Woman's MC Penn

Dallas

Selma

state/1919

Edwards EM

?-9/1926 [?]

Bennett Med Col Chicago

Mobile

Grand Bay

 

Farrington A

 

Boston U Sch Med

 

 

state/1897

Fisher-Cooper M

 

Univ of Iowa

Baldwin

Robertsdale

"illegal" ca. 1910

Ford JLC

1871-1952

Herring Med Coll

Madison

 

county/1900

Fort M

 

Tulane

Limestone

 

county/1905

Fowler O

 

Memphis Hosp MC

Marion

 

county/1904

Jones M

 

Woman's MC Penn

Montgomery

 

county refused, 1895

Ligon ELB

?-1/1932

Am Sch Osteo

Mobile

Mobile

state/1903

Ligon G [same as above?]

 

 

Mobile

Mobile

state/1903

Longshore A

1829-1912

Woman's MC Penn

 

 

state refused, 1892

Moorman M

 

Chattanooga MC

Madison

Huntsville

county/1901

Northcross D

 

Bennett MC, Chicago

Montgomery

Montgomery

 

Oden A

 

non-grad

Cullman

Lawrence Cove

county/?

Patterson A

 

Boston Univ

 

 

state refusted/1907

Peck W

 

Woman's MC Penn

Shelby

Montevallo

state/1915

Phelps E

 

Boston Univ

 

 

state/1902

Robinson A

1865-1920

Woman's MC Penn

Jefferson

Birmingham

county/1907 [1906?]

Roper FT

?-8/14/1915 [?]

 

Mobile

Mobile

 

Shephard L

 

Graef Med Inst

Tallapoosa

Dadeville

n/a

Swisher L

 

 

Cullman

Vinemont

 

Thompson BB

 

Meharry

Tallapoosa

 

county/1903

Underwood N
[not female]

 

Chattanooga MC

Franklin

Phil Campbell

county/1906 [1907?]

Ward J

 

 

Tuscaloosa

Tuscaloosa

 

Whipper I

1872-1953

Howard

Macon

Tuskegee

 

White E

 

Bham MC

 

 

state refused/1900

 

Table 3: Female Physicians in Selected Southeastern States in 1918

State

Female Physicians in 1918

Alabama

10

Florida

39

Georgia

30

Mississippi

18

Tennessee

31

Source: Committee of Medical Women, General Medical Board. Council of National Defense. Census of Women Physicians, November 11, 1918. Rochester, NY: American Women's Hospitals, 1918]

 

ALPHABETICAL ENTRIES: FEMALE PHYSICIANS

 

*Clara E. Atkinson. Univ of Iowa, 1876. Fairhope, Baldwin Co. "Retired." [Trans MASA 1910, p593] Retired or out of practice.  [Committee of Medical Women, General Medical Board. Council of National Defense. Census of Women Physicians, November 11, 1918. Rochester, NY: American Women's Hospitals, 1918, p5] 1876 graduate, Fairhope, retired. [Polk's Medical Register and Directory of the United States and Canada, 1910. Detroit: Polk's, 1910, p. 218] Fairhope founded as single-tax colony in 1894. A Clara E. Atkinson is listed in the Alabama Death Index, 1908-1959 [V40, Role 2, page 19774] as having died in Baldwin County in October, 1932.  "Dr. Clara E. Atkinson, 87, pioneer resident of Fairhope, sister of E.B. Gaston, secretary of the Fairhope Single Tax corporation, died at the home of her brother, Sunday morning, October 16 at 10 o'clock. She was one of the pioneer women physicians of the country, having graduated from Iowa Medical college in 1876, and practiced in Iowa and Minnesota before coming south in 1895." [Mobile Press-Register Tuesday October 18, 1932, reprinted 18 October 2007]

*Dicia Houston Baker. Birmingham [Trans MASA 1905, p536] Born 1865. [AMA. Directory of Deceased American Physicians 1804-1929 1:60] AMA member. Died at her home in Bham April 4, 1907, "after an illness of more than two months, aged 44." [JAMA 48:1371, April 20, 1907] Jefferson Co Med Soc member, 1903 [Trans MASA 1903, p505] Birmingham. Listed as Jeff Co Med Soc member [Trans MASA 1902, p438] Birmingham. NOT listed as Jeff Co Med Soc member [Trans MASA 1899, p181]. Cert Jeff Co Bd 1898 [Trans MASA 1899, p117]. Listed as Jeff Co Med Soc member 1901 [Trans MASA 1901, p186] Laura Memorial Woman's Medical College, Cincinnati, 1898. Cert. Jeff Co Bd, 1899. Birmingham. [Trans MASA 1904, p530] Women's Memorial, Cincinnati, 1898. Cert. Jeff Co Bd, 1899. Birmingham. Listed as Jeff Co Med Soc member. [Trans MASA 1900, p184] Listed as Birmingham in Polk's Medical Register and Directory of the United States and Canada, 1900. Detroit: Polk's, 1900, p. 198]

*Jessie M. Barfield. Atlanta College of Physicians and Surgeons, 1901. Clay County. Lineville. Member of county medical society. [Committee of Medical Women, General Medical Board. Council of National Defense. Census of Women Physicians, November 11, 1918. Rochester, NY: American Women's Hospitals, 1918, p5] Barfield, Alabama. [Directory of women physicians of California, Alabama....Woman's Medical J 20(6):135, June 1910] Barfield, Alabama. [Directory of women physicians of California, Alabama...Woman's Medical J 20(3):68, March 1910] MC P&S Atlanta, 1901. Cert Clay Co Bd, 1901. Lineville, Clay County. [Trans MASA 1920, p288] A Jessie M. Barfield is listed in the Alabama Death Index, 1908-1959 [V41, role 3, Certificate #20192], as having died in Talladega County in June, 1937.

*Ella Elizabeth Barnes. Woman's Medical College Penn, 1893. Cert Jeff Co Bd, 1893. Birmingham. [Trans MASA 1894, p126, 231,  236] Member, Jeff Co Med Soc. Birmingham. [Trans MASA 1897, p209] Member, Jeff Co Med Soc. Birmingham. [Trans MASA 1898, p186] Buried in Oak Hill Cemetery [1120 N. 19th St, Bham 35234]. Burial records indicate her age unknown, buried June 15, 1898, plot owner unknown.

*Amy L. Bascom. "Moved out of the county," i.e., Madison Co. [Trans MASA 1910, p654]. Died 1909. [AMA. Directory of Deceased American Physicians 1804-1929 1:84] Listed in Huntsville in "Directory of Woman Physicians of California, Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Georgia, Arkansas and Colorado." Woman's Medical Journal 20(6):132-136, June 1910 but NOT ibid 20(3):65-69, March 1910 [Directory of women physicians of California, Alabama....Woman's Medical J 20(6):135, June 1910]   

*Ollie Paxton Board. Birmingham. [Directory of women physicians of California, Alabama....Woman's Medical J 20(6):135, June 1910] Birmingham. [Directory of women physicians of California, Alabama...Woman's Medical J 20(3):68, March 1910]  

FEMALE?? *Shirley Bragg. Alabama, 1875. Cert Lowndes Co Bd, 1879. Member, Montgomery Co Med Soc. Montgomery. [Trans MASA 1898, p207]

*Irene Ballou Bullard. Listed as Ballon [Trans MASA 1905 p76] or Ballou [Trans MASA 1905 p545]. Moved into Jeff Co. Univ of Michigan, 1903. Cert Jeff Co Bd [Trans MASA 1905, pp 76, 544-5] She was apparently in partnership in Birmingham with Dr. Laura Burton [see entry below]. A newspaper article published at the time of Dr. Burton’s murder notes:  Mrs. Burton had an office in Room 14 Watts building, which is at the corner of Third avenue and Twentieth street. She was the partner of Mrs. Irene Bullard, who until recently lived with W.H. Fruitticher at 1005 Twelfth avenue. The two women doctors, however, opened this place at North Haven, which was something of an infirmary." [Birmingham Age-Herald 10 April 1906, pp. 1 and 7]

*Laura Evelyn Burton. Born in Nanafalia, Marengo County, Alabama, on January 12, 1876. Cert. in Alabama, 1905. University of Louisville SOM, Hospital Med Coll Louisville, 1903. Murdered by her second ex-husband, Allen Wolf Burton, M.D., in Birmingham on April 9, 1906. Listed as dying sometime before 12.31.29 in AMA. Directory of Deceased American Physicians 1804-1929 1:221.  Univ of Louisville, 1903. Cert. Mobile Co. Bd, 1904 [Trans MASA 1905, p78 and 560] Photographs and articles from Alabama newspapers, April 1906, are below.  Dr. Burton is buried [as Laura Evelyn Compton Bartee] in Marengo County in the Nanafalia Baptist Cemetery [located on Highway 10 three miles east of the Nanafalia Bridge which spans the Tombigbee River between Choctaw and Marengo Counties].

 

 


Laura Evelyn Compton and Captain Chesley Thomas Bartee
on their wedding day 25 November 1893
Nanafalia, Alabama

 

 

 

Laura Evelyn Compton Bartee [ right]

Lucy Evelyn Bartee [left]
ca. 1895


 


 Captain Chesley Thomas Bartee
Mrs. Laura Evelyn Compton Bartee
Lucy Evelyn Bartee [left; born January 31, 1895]]
Thomas Bartee [right; born before June 1897]



 



Dr. Burton's gravestone, Nanafalia Baptist Cemetery, Marengo County, Alabama

These photographs are courtesy of Dr. Laura Burton's great grandson:

Dan Bloodworth, Jr.
 Opelika, Alabama 


 

"Doctor Kills Wife and Self; Dentist Shot/

Dr. W.B. Burton Commits Murder and Suicide---T.T. Thaxton Wounded

Family Disagreements Cause of Tragedy

Several Eye-Witnesses to the Affair, Which Occurred in the Home of

Mrs. Burton, Who was Also a Physician"

Birmingham Age-Herald 10 April 1906, pages 1 and 7

W.B. Burton, physician, dead.

Mrs. Dr. Laura E. Burton, wife of W.B. Burton, dead.

T.T. Thaxton, dentist, Pratt City, probably fatally wounded.

In brief, that is the story of an awful tragedy at 45 Woodland avenue, North Haven, last night between 10:30 and 11 o'clock.

Burton shot and killed his wife, two bullets taking effect; shot and wounded Thaxton, and cut his own throat with a small pocketknife which his wife had given him.

Family disagreements, coupled probably with jealousy, seem to have been the cause of the crime committed by Burton. According to statements made by Mrs. V.S. Andrews, and her daughter, Miss Blanche Andrews, who live in the same house, the husband and wife had not been living together for some time. A divorce was granted the Burtons a month ago.

Mrs. Andrews and her daughter further state that Dr. Thaxton was a cousin of theirs (the Andrews'), and that he was at the house at their request, as the former was recovering from a surgical operation.

That Mrs. Burton was expecting to be killed by her husband is indicated by a statement she made to a neighbor about dark. A telephone message was received from Dr. Burton earlier in the day, that he was coming to the house. She went to this neighbors and hid awhile. She returned home later.

There were three eye witnesses to the shooting beside Dr. Thaxton. The statements of all coincide, even that of Dr. Thaxton, made before he was placed on the operating table. The witnesses were Mrs. Andrews, her daughter and Mrs. T.T. Thaxton. The latter made the following statement:

Statement Made

"My husband and myself went to the house at the request of Mrs. Andrews, who was stopping with Mrs. Dr. Burton while recuperating from an operation. Burton came to the house and tried to make up with his wife. She refused to make up and he asked her to go in a room for a private talk. They came out of the room in a few minutes and we were all standing in the hall. Burton asked his wife to go back in the room with him again, as he had something else to say to her, but she refused. He looked at her a second, drew a pistol from his pocket and commenced firing. My husband jumped between them to protect Mrs. Burton, and Dr. Burton shot him twice in the abdomen.

"I do not know much about the family. I had never seen Dr. Burton before, but had seen the wife. I understand that they have not been living together for some time and that they have had family trouble and disagreements.

"The visit tonight was the second that my husband has paid to his cousin, Mrs. Andrews. I accompanied him and we merely happened to be at the house when the trouble took place. Mrs. Andrews telephoned my husband today that she wanted him to come over to see her tonight and he naturally went. She was operated on at the Hillman hospital recently and she thought that she could recuperate better at Mrs. Burton's than anywhere else. That accounts for here and her daughter being there."

Policeman Nix was among the first to reach the house after the tragedy. He began a close investigation of the affair, and has all the evidence that was to be procured last night. The pistol and the knife are in his possession. The former is a double-action Smith & Wesson, and four of the five chambers have been fired. The other cartridge was not discharged.

The knife has two blades and pearl handle and the longest of the blades was used by Burton in taking his life. He fiercely plunged it into his throat one inch, making a wound about an inch long in the right side of his neck, and about an inch and a half deep, into the jugular vein.

The house is near the end of the North Highlands car line in New Haven. Several steps lead from the ground to the front porch, which runs the full length of the front of the house, probably thirty-five or forty feet. The front door is a little to one side of the steps, and opens into the hall, where the shooting took place.

After Burton and his wife had come from the room where they had been talking, all stepped into the front hall. When Burton pulled the pistol, which he did without a word of warning according to all the witnesses. Dr. Thaxton sprang between him and his wife and received two bullets in the abdomen. A third bullet, probably one of those which took effect, struck the door facing, where it was embedded in the wood.

When Burton had fired two or three times Mrs. Burton ran out of the front door down the steps and into the darkness in the yard. Burton was just behind her and fired once more, the bullet taking effect in the left side of her neck and probably causing instant death. She ran about thirty feet to the end of the porch and fell face downward on the ground. Burton was only a few feet behind her and when he saw her condition plunged the knife in his own neck. He fell a few feet from his wife with the knife lying under him, near his right hand. Blood was clotted on the blade and handle of the knife when it was picked up.

The pistol was found at the bottom of the steps where Burton dropped it or threw it as he was running after his wife. In the meantime Dr. Thaxton had fallen in the hall. A minute or two afterwards he was picked up and taken into one of the rooms and placed on the bed.

The police were notified of the tragedy and also Lige Loy, the undertaker. A wagon was sent to get the dead bodies, but when it was found that Dr. Thaxton was wounded, a bed was made in the wagon and he was taken to Hillman hospital as rapidly as possible where he was placed on the operating table. He was accompanied by his wife. The bodies of Dr. and Mrs. Burton were carried to Lige Loy's undertaking establishment where they were prepared for burial.

To Hold Inquest

A coroner's inquest will be held this morning at 10 o'clock at Loy's establishment. Witnesses were summoned last night by Policemen Nix and Parker.

It is expected that at the inquest many additional facts will come to light. Among other things it is expected that a letter written by Burton to his wife yesterday afternoon will be produced. The letter had not been opened last night, but Miss Andrews stated that she would bring it to the inquest.

At the undertaking establishment the exact nature of the wounds of Mrs Burton was first discovered. One bullet had entered the left breast. It had struck a small watch she was wearing on her shirt waist and shattered the timepiece, then penetrated the breast. The bullet was not more than an inch under the skin and had been stopped apparently by striking a bone.

The second bullet was in the left side of the neck and it evidently caused death. It could not be traced last night, but judging from the direction it must have entered the brain near the base.

No funeral arrangements have been made as yet, as very little is known of the family. In fact all the information that could be secured last night was that he came from Montana and that they had been married about three years. They had bought the place which they occupied.

Mrs. Burton had an office in Room 14 Watts building, which is at the corner of Third avenue and Twentieth street. She was the partner of Mrs. Irene Bullard, who until recently lived with W.H. Fruitticher at 1005 Twelfth avenue. The two women doctors, however, opened this place at North Haven, which was something of an infirmary.

Little Known of Family

Very little could be learned about Mrs. Burton last night except that she was a widow with four children when she married Burton about three years ago, and that she was a native of Alabama and a graduate of a medical college in Louisville, Ky.

Her children are said to be with her parents in some Alabama town. She bought the house where the tragedy occurred about ten months ago, but her professional duties had kept her in the city most of the time. Her neighbors claim to know very little about her private life or domestic affairs.

Dr. Burton, her husband, according to those who knew the pair, made little effort to earn a support for either himself or his wife. Due to this cause, Mrs. Burton filed suit for divorce and was granted a decree about one month ago.

Their acquaintances are also authority for the statement that Burton took little or no interest in the woman till after the divorce was granted, but that since he has hounded her unceasingly and threatened on several occasions to kill her if she did not agree to live with him again.

No Cause for Jealousy

J.C. Richards, the members of whose family were the closest neighbors of the Burtons, in discussing the tragedy last night, said,

"I do not think that there was any cause for jealousy in the case. We did not know any of the parties intimately but did try to protect Mrs. Burton as much as possible.

"When I heard the shots fired I knew what had happened, or at least what had been intended, and I hurried to the Burton residence. I found Thaxton lying on the floor with blood flowing from his wounds and picked him up and carried him to a bed. As I was moving him he told me that Burton, without a word of warning and while apparently in a good humor, had risen from a chair, pulled a pistol from his pocket and started to shoot his divorced wife, and that when he (Thaxton) stepped between them the weapon was quickly turned on him, and that he was shot down."

Mrs. Andrews' Statement

Mrs. Andrews, who was in the room at the time of the shooting says that Burton requested hims former wife to go to her room with him for the second time and that she said, "I do not want to go to the room with you as long as you look like you do. I'm afraid of you," and that he immediately arose and attacked her.

As Mr. Richards and Mrs. Andrews were telling the story Mrs. Richards spoke up and said:

"Why don't you ask the police why they did not come out here and prevent this horrible tragedy? I called them when Mrs. Burton was here and told them she was in danger and that if some one in authority did not interfere she would be killed, and their reply was that it was so far out that no one could come."


HUMAN INTEREST STORY IN TRAGEDY

Interesting Account of Life of Mrs. Dr. Burton

CHANCE FOR THAXTON

Dentist Shot in Tragedy of Monday Night May Live

--Funeral Arrangements of Burton Not Made

Birmingham Age-Herald, Wednesday, April 11, 1906 page 7

 

Back of the North Haven tragedy of Monday night that ended the lives of Mrs. Dr. Laura E. Burton and Dr. Allen W. Burton and that threatens each passing hour to send Dr. T.T. Thaxton to his grave, lies a story of absorbing interest. 

The story can be best told in its chronological order.

Some fifteen or more years ago a beautiful and spirited girl in the middle of her teens, of gentle birth, refined environment and good education, left the protection of the fondest of parents to become the wife of a steamboat captain, a typical man of the river, many year her senior. This girl was "little Laura Compton."

She grew into womanhood and with her physical maturity came mental development and natural ambition and pride. She began to realize the disparity between her husband and herself, not in age alone, but in other matters as well.

She did not go adrift for she possessed the pride and virtue of her family. 

She went to Louisville and matriculated as a student in a leading medical college. Here she met a fellow student, Allen W. Burton, whose photograph now occupies the place of honor on the dressing cabinet of the bed chamber from which she was removed a corpse on Monday night, and whose body lies beside hers in an undertaking establishment this morning awaiting burial.

Like had found like in the ambitions of the two, and love, divorce from the first husband and marriage followed in rapid succession.

Graduation day passed and the wife came to Birmingham and opened an office for the practice of her profession and the husband traveled for awhile for a well known wholesale drug establishment. The wife succeeded and the husband failed.

The man lacked application, while the woman took pride in her profession and developed a high order of skill and competency, and her reputation and clientelle [sic] grew steadily.

The two drifted further and further apart and a decree of divorce, based on serious allegations by the wife against her husband broke their marital bond on March 7 last.

Burton, who had for some time prior to the divorce exhibited little interest in his wife, following the decree of separation commenced to court her anew in the most ardent and persistent manner. The result was that she agreed to remarry him again on May 9, and their families and friends were looking forward to their reunion by another marriage ceremony with much pleasure.

Some time ago Burton opened an office for the practice of medicine but was unable to establish a practice and last week sought a position with the wholesale drug house of Findly, Dick & Co. of New Orleans, but was unsuccessful. His repeated failures seemed to develop impatience and ill temper towards his former and prospective wife that became so threatening that she appealed to relative for personal protection.

This state of things became more and more intense until it reached its climax in the murder and suicide Monday night.

Monday Burton telephoned Mrs. Burton that he would be out to see her that evening. Sunday she had forbidden him to ever call on her again and broken off the engagement for their second marriage.

About the Tragedy

Monday afternoon he called at the court house and carefully read over several times the the [sic] evidence in the divorce proceedings frequently frowning as he evidently came across paragraphs that did not please him.

In the evening he called at his wife's home in North Haven. She saw him coming and ran to a neighbor's house where she remained some time, but finally decided to go and face him. She borrowed a hat and cloak to give the impression that she had just come in from the city.

Monday afternoon Mrs. V. S. Andrews, a patient of Mrs. Dr. Burton, who was staying at the Burton home while recovering from a recent operation, fearing that something exciting might happen, telephoned her cousin, Dr. T.T. Thaxton of Pratt City, to come out and spend his evening with her. Burton conversed with Dr. Thaxton and Mrs. Andrews, apparently in the happiest mood until Mrs. Burton came in. The Burtons went to Mrs. Burton's rom [sic] and stayed fifteen or twenty minutes, and then returned to the sitting room. In a short time Burton requested the woman to return to the room, but she declined. He got up and went into another room and picked up a 32-calibre revolver that belonged to Mrs. Burton, which he put in his pocket. Seeing this Mrs. Andrews ran and Dr. Thaxton stepped between the pair. In the coolest manner imaginable Burton turned on him and fired two bullets into his body. As Mrs. Burton ran out of the house Burton shot her in the breast. In the yard he caught up with her and at close range shot her in the neck.

He knelt over her to make sure that she was dead. Being satlsged [sic; satisfied?] he took her bleeding head in his arm, fell to his knees and mumbled either a curse or a prayer, those close by could not tell which, and cut his own throat, falling so completely over her body as to almost hide it from view.

The rest of the details have been already told.

Dr. Thaxton's Condition

Dr. Thaxton, who has been well known as a citizen and dentist of Pratt City for several years, was removed to the Hillman Hospital soon after the shooting, when it was found that the two bullets from Burton's pistol had lodged in the intestines and there was little hope of his recovery.

He rallied yesterday afternoon and last night his condition was reported unexpectedly favorable. It is now believed that there is a chance for his recovery.

Who the Parties Were

Mrs. Burton was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. R.J. Compton of Marengo county [sic]. Her mother is the daughter of the late Brig. Gen. William L. Lewis of the Confederate army, who was for man years a wealthy cotton merchant of New Orleans. The Comptons have been prominent in Alabama. She was a double first cousin of H.C. Compton of Woodlawn, who has for years been connected with the wholesale department of the Doster-Northington Drug company of this city, and who is now an aggressive candidate for associate railroad commissioner.

She was an active member of the Young Women's Christian association [sic] and was a member of the Jefferson County Medical society [sic].

Burton was a southerner by birth, but lived in Montana with his parents for a number of years before returning south to attend college. His father is Col. A.C. Taylor of Tishimauma, Okla., and is said to have once been governor of Montana. His mother is Mrs. George H. Taylor of Chattanooga.

The parents of both parties have been notified of the tragedy.

The bodies were viewed by thousands of people in Lige Loy's undertaking establishment yesterday, a number of the visitors being women of all classes.

No funeral arrangements have been made. The inquest which was to have been held yesterday was postponed because the several witnesses were in such a nervous condition that they could not attend the hearing.

Mrs. Burton carried $1250 insurance and Burton $1000, which was in his former wife's favor.

H.C. Compton, Mrs. Burton's cousin, tells of a most remarkable incident in connection with the tragedy. Mr. Compton says:

"Dr. Burton spent Sunday night at my house on my invitation, and I warned him rather strongly against any further interference with my cousin to whom I was devoted.

"I left him Monday morning to go to Greensboro to make a speech in the interest of my candidacy for railroad commissioner. Monday night I dreamed I that I was riding in a vehicle and was pushed backwards into a pool of muddy water. Coming into the city yesterday morning I told a friend on the train about the dream and predicted that I would hear bad news soon.

"'O, you'll hear that after the primary on August 28,' he said, as he laughed, and passed me the Age-Herald which I had not seen before.

"His sentence was not completed till my eyes caught the headlines of the story telling of my cousin's murder.

"Of course I am not superstitious, but that was certainly strange."


BURTON TRAGEDY IN BIRMINGHAM

Mrs. Burton Passed Examination to Practice in Mobile

WAS WIFE OF CAPTAIN BARTEE

Two Domestic Wrecks n the Life of the Woman Before She Met Violent Death

Mobile Register 13 April 1906 page 2

 

Dr. Laura E. Burton, who was shot and killed by her husband, Allen W. Burton, also a physician, at the home of the woman in Birmingham on Monday night, was known to a number of people in Mobile, where her first husband lives when not on the river, and it was here she first stood an examination entitling her to practice as a physician in Alabama. Two domestic wrecks cloud the last fourteen years of her life and its ending was marked by a triple tragedy, her husband cutting his own throat and shooting Dr. T.T. Thaxton, who attempted to prevent the infuriated husband killing his wife, and who died on Wednesday.

The tragic sequel to the marital union of Dr. and Mrs. Burton has not surprised those who are familiar with her earlier married life as the wife of Captain C.T. Bartee, residing at 104 north Hamilton street, this city, and master of the river boat Mary S. Blees. The Birmingham Age-Herald in giving the history of the woman makes some errors which are unjust to Captain Bartee.

Mrs. Burton's parents lived in Marengo county and her family were well connected.

She was Miss Laura Compton before marriage to the steamboatman 14 years ago, and at this time he was and is today one of the best known and most generally esteemed captains on the Tombigbee river. There was no great disadvantage in age against the captain, as the Age-Herald states, and both families considered that the captain had won a very charming bride and the woman an honorable man entirely worthy of her. His high character was subsequently shown when he saved her name and list his own happiness. Their wedded life turned from the channel of peaceful content when the woman, who had been well educated and was gifted mentally, became ambitious to enter the profession of medicine. Her husband indulged her in the wish and paid for her medical education at the Homeopathic College in Louisville, with incidental expenses, for one year, although it separated the woman from home and children.

On a visit to Louisville Captain Bartee discovered conditions which brought him great sorrow and caused a scandal at the medical college, Dr. Burton's name being identified with the scandal. Through powerful Louisville influences the affair was kept out of the newspapers. Captain Bartee did not act as Dr. Burton later did under similar circumstances, but endeavored to save his wife's name by bringing her home and quietly obtaining a divorce when he realized that her heart was elsewhere and that the estrangement was total. She left him with four young children, and was soon afterward married at Louisville to the man who killed her.

As Mrs. Burton, the woman graduated March 31, 1903, at the Louisville Medical College of the Kentucky University. She practiced at Wapanucka, Indian Territory, for six months and came to Mobile in 1904. In September of that year she stood an examination before the board of examiners of the Mobile County Medical Society and gained a very high percentage, obtaining a certificate entitling her to practice medicine in Mobile county on October 1. Almost immediately she left this city and went to Birmingham. At the period of her qualifying here she was described as a woman of singular personal charm and vivacity, and of unquestioned ability in her profession. Her second husband accompanied her to Mobile and it is said that they went to Marengo county together to see her children on the boat, of which her first husband is pilot. The Age-Herald relates that while she succeeded in medicine, he failed, and when they were first in Birmingham he was traveling for a wholesale drug company. According to the Birmingham paper, the man lacked application, while the woman took pride in her profession and developed a high order of skill and competancy, and her reputation and clientele grew steadily. The two drifted further and further apart, and a decree of divorce, based on serious allegations by the wife against her husband, broke their marital bond on March 7 last.

Burton, who had for some time prior to the divorce exhibited little interest in his wife, following the decree of separation, commenced to court her anew in the most ardent and persistent manner. The result was that she agreed to remarry him again on May 9, and their families and friends were looking forward to their reunion by another marriage ceremony with much pleasure.

Some time ago Burton opened an office for the practice of medicine, but was unable to establish a practice, and last week sought a position with the wholesale drug house of Findly, Dick & Co., of New Orleans, but was unsuccessful. His repeated failures seemed to develop impatience and ill temper towards his former and prospective wife that became so that she appealed to relatives for personal protection. This state of things became more and more intense until it reached its climax in the murder and suicide Monday night.

Mrs. Burton was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. R.J. Compton of Marengo county. Her mother is the daughter of the late Brigadier General William L. Lewis, of the Confederate army, who was for many years a wealthy cotton merchant of New Orleans. The Comptons have been prominent in Alabama. She was a double first cousin of H.C. Compton, of Woodlawn, who has for years been connected with the wholesale department of the Doster-Northington Drug Company of Birmingham and who is now an aggresive candidate for associate railroad commissioner.

She was an active member of the Young Women's Christian Association and was a member of the Jefferson County Medical Society.

Burton was a Southerner by birth, but lived in Montana with his parents for a number of years before returning South to attend college. His father is Colonel A.C. Taylor, of Tishlmauma, Okla., and is said to have once been governor of Montana. His mother is Mrs. George H. Taylor, of Chattanooga.

 


Birmingham News Thursday, April 12, 1906, page 8

DEATH CLAIMS DR. T.T. THAXTON

SUCCUMBS TO WOUNDS RECEIVED AT THE HANDS OF DR. A.W. BURTON IN NORTH HAVEN ON MONDAY NIGHT

Death has claimed the third victim of the Burton tragedy. Dr. T.T. Thaxton, who attempted to prevent Dr. Burton from killing his wife and who received two wounds as the result, from the pistol of Burton, died last night at 9:30 o'clock at the Hillman hospital after lingering for forty-eight hours in an unconscious state.

At the time of death the wife of the deceased was at his bedside where she had remained since her husband was striken down with the deadly bullets.

The body of the victim and the slayer lay side by side in Loy's undertaking parlors this morning. Hardly had the body of Mrs. Burton, the first victim of Burton's mad act, been removed when the body of Dr. Thaxton was brought in.

Dr. Thaxton was a popular dentist of Pratt City and leaves a family in that city. He had gone to the Burton home on the night of the tragedy at the request of Mrs. V. S. Andrews, a cousin, who with her daughter Blanche, was sojourning at the Burton sanitarium to regain her health, following an operation. Dr. Thaxton and Mrs. Andrews were engaged in conversation when difference between Dr. and Mrs. Burton arose and when the husband began his fiendish work Dr. Thaxton interfered and was shot down.

His body will be sent to Pratt City today by Lige Loy and funeral arrangements will be announced later. He was a member of the Improved Order of Red Men and other orders.

MRS. BURTON'S REMAINS

The remains of Mrs. Burton were shipped last night to Nafalia, Ala., where interment will be given this afternoon. Nafalia is the home of the parents of Mrs. Burton.

Z. T. Burton, father of Dr. Burton, will arrive in the city tomorrow morning from the Indian Territory and take charge of the remains of his son. He was expected to arrive this afternoon, but on account of delay in trains he was detained in Memphis.

There are no new developments in the tragedy and all the victims have departed this life.

Coroner Paris will make no further investigation, he being convinced that Burton killed both parties and then slew himself. Dr. Thaxton was killed deliberately by Dr. Burton when he attempted to thwart the plans of the former. His life was given as a sacrifice in an attempt to prevent bloodshed and the many friends are grief-stricken at his death.


Birmingham News Friday, April 13, 1906, page 14

THAXTON FUNERAL LARGELY ATTENDED

REMAINS OF VICTIM OF DR. A.W. BURTON LAID TO REST IN PRATT CITY CEMETERY...

Pratt City Bureau Birmingham News First Ave. Peoples Phone no. 40. Key & Moseley Building, no. 230

PRATT CITY, Ala., April 13.--The funeral of Dr. T. T. Thaxton took place this afternoon at 2 o'clock. The fraternities of which the deceased was a member turned out in mass. The Red Men, Pocohontas Lodge, the Woodman, the Blue Lodge of Masons, and the Knights Templar were strongly represented. The ceremonies were conducted by the Knights Templar, Eminent Commander Scott directing. The burial took place at the family lot in Greenwood cemetery.

 

FEMALE??*Tillie Z. Canterberry. Bham MC, 1915. Cert state bd, 1915. Johns, Jeff Co. [Trans MASA 1920, p333]

*Nora A. Chapman. D.O. Am Sch Osteopathy,? Cert state bd refused, 1902 [Trans MASA 1903, p82]

*Florence T.R. Craighead. Boston Univ Sch Med, 1903. Mobile County. Mobile, 125 St. Stephen's Road. Listed as retired or out of practice. [Committee of Medical Women, General Medical Board. Council of National Defense. Census of Women Physicians, November 11, 1918. Rochester, NY: American Women's Hospitals, 1918, p5]

*Halle Tanner Dillon. Tuskegee. [Trans MASA 1894, p243] Tuskegee [Trans MASA 1895, p199] Woman's Med Coll Penn, 1891. Cert. state bd, 1891. "The case of H.T. Dillon is remarkable as that of the first colored woman examined in the state." [Trans MASA 1892, p128]
Dillon "served as a resident physician at Tuskegee Institute from 1891 to 1894. During her tenure she was responsible for the medical care of 450 students as well as for 30 officers and teachers and their families. Johnson was expected to make her own medicines, while teaching one or two classes each term. For her efforts she was paid six hundred dollars per year plus room and board; she was allowed one one-month vacation per year." [Hine DC. Co-laborers in the work of the Lord: nineteenth-century black women physicians. In: Abram RJ, ed. Send Us a Lady Physician: Women Doctors in America, 1835-1920. New York: Norton, 1985, 114]

*Pauline Elizabeth Dinkins. Woman's MC Phila, 1919. Selma, Dallas Co. Cert state bd, July, 1919. [Trans MASA 1920, p85, 303]  Selma “(col.) (b’91). Licensed 1919. 807 Minter Avenue.” (American Medical Directory 1921, p. 150) Appears in Valley Creek Precinct, Dallas County, Alabama, Roll T623-13, page 19A, Enumeration District 15. Born December 1891. One of 6 daughters and one son of Charles and Pauline Elizabeth Dinkins; also listed in the household are a grandmother and a servant.[12th U.S. Census 1900]In 1929 she made a trip to Europe. According to New York Passenger Lists 1820-1957, she returned to the U.S. on June 10, 1929, from Hamburg, Germany, aboard the SS Albert Ballin. That ship, launched in 1923, added a tourist class in 1928. After sailing under various other names, The SS Albert Ballin was scrapped in 1981. The Wikepedia entry on the vessel is at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Albert_Ballin




This passenger list for the SS Albert Ballin shows Pauline Dinkins as the first person listed on the page.





SS Albert Ballin
From: http://www.norwayheritage.com/

 

*Estella M. Edwards. Bennett Medical College, Chicago, 1910. [Bennett MC was an Eclectic school which opened in 1868; Loyola University of Chicago assumed its operations in 1910. In 1915 control passed to Loyola's board of trustees.] Grand Bay, Mobile County. [Listed in Committee of Medical Women, General Medical Board. Council of National Defense. Census of Women Physicians, November 11, 1918. Rochester, NY: American Women's Hospitals, 1918, p117] Alabama Deaths, 1908-1959 [V43, Role 3, p. 21310] has an Estella McL. Edwards as dying in Jefferson County in September, 1926. 

*Annie Louise Farrington. Boston Univ Sch Med, 1893. Cert. state bd [Trans MASA 1897, p129] Licensed in Pennsylvania, 1893. Presumed to have died prior to 12/31/29. [AMA. Directory of Deceased American Physicians 1804-1929 1:486]

*Mary A. Fisher-Cooper. Univ of Iowa, 1891. Robertsdale, Baldwin Co., "Illegal." [Trans MASA 1910, p593]

*Justina Lorena Ford. Herring Medical College, Chicago, 1899. Cert. Madison Co Bd 1900. [Trans MASA 1901, p120

*Justina Laurena Carter Ford. [1871-1952]. Born in Knoxville, small town east of Galesburg, Illinois. Herring Medical College, Chicago, 1899. Practiced briefly at Normal, Alabama, before moving to Denver, Colorado. Claimed to have delivered over 7,000 babies in her career. [Harris, Mark. The forty years of Justina Ford. Negro Digest 8:43-45, March 1950; Smith, Jessie Carney. Justina L. Ford. In: Smith, Jessie Carney, ed. Notable Black American Women, volume 2. New York: Gale, 1996, pp 229-231]  Her home in Denver is now the Black American West Museum and Heritage Center. 

 


Black American West Museum and Heritage Center
Denver, Colorado

*Ford, Justina Laurena Carter (22 Jan. 1871-14 Oct. 1952), physician, was born in Knoxville, Illinois, and grew up in Galesburg in the west central part of the state. She was the seventh child in the family, and her mother is reputed to have been nurse. According to the 1900 U.S. Census, her father was born in Kentucky and her mother in Tennessee. In a profile published in Negro Digest two years before her death, Ford declared a very early interest in medicine. “I wouldn’t play with others unless we played hospital, and I wouldn’t play even that unless they let me be the doctor. I didn’t know the names of any medicines…” (quoted in Harris, 42) She also remembered liking to prepare chickens for meals in order to see their insides and visiting sick neighbors to help them. Ford grew up to pursue that childhood interest in medicine and became the second African-American female physician in Alabama and the first in Colorado.

            Little else is known of Ford’s early life. Ford attended Hering Medical College in Chicago, one of several schools in the U.S.  (others are known in St. Louis, Missouri, and Fort Wayne, Indiana) named after the German immigrant Constantine Hering (1800-1880), who is often called the “father of American homeopathy.”  She graduated in 1899. By that time about twenty percent of physicians in the United States were graduates of homeopathic schools. Almost 1600 black physicians were practicing in the U.S. at the time; fewer than 200 were women. The first female African American physician in the U.S., Rebecca Lee Crumpler, had graduated from the New England Female Medical College in 1864.

            In Ford’s 1900 U.S. Census record, enumerated on June 7, she is listed in Chicago’s 4th Ward as one of six residents of a boarding house.  Also listed is John E. Ford, 39, a clergyman born in Kentucky, as were both his parents. This man is presumably Ford’s first husband; how they met and what eventually happened to him is currently unknown. Sometime later that year Ford traveled south to Alabama to take that state’s medical certification exam. Why she picked such a distant southern state to begin her practice remains a mystery, although the presence of Booker T. Washington and Tuskegee Institute may have been factors. Washington had recruited Dr. Cornelius N. Dorsette to set up practice in the state capitol of Montgomery in 1884 as one of Alabama’s earliest black physicians. In 1891 Washington persuaded Dr. Halle Tanner Dillon to come to the state and serve as the resident physician for Tuskegee Institute’s faculty and students; she remained in that post until 1894. When she passed her grueling medical certification exam in August, 1891, she became the first female physician of any race in Alabama.

            Instead of Tuskegee, Ford settled in Normal, just outside the city of Huntsville in north Alabama. Normal was the site of the State Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes, a land-grant school founded in 1875. She was certified to practice medicine after passing the test administered by the Madison County Board of Medical Examiners sometime after the census count in Chicago in June, 1900, and before March 31, 1901; she is listed in the 1901 Transactions of the state medical society as a successful candidate. Joining some 55 black physicians in Alabama, she apparently became the college’s resident physician. The archives at what is now known as Alabama A&M University seems to have only one item related to Ford, a “sick list” dated December 30 and 31, 1902, giving the names of people she vaccinated.

            About this time Ford decided to move her practice elsewhere and chose Denver, Colorado. She may have hoped a black female physician would have better opportunities in the West rather than the Jim Crow South, where even male black physicians could have difficulties developing a practice.

            Ford’s decision proved to be the right one for her. In a career that lasted more than four decades, she built a formidable reputation for her skills in obstetrics, gynecology and pediatrics. Ford remained a distinct minority, however. In 1950, two years before her death, only seven black doctors were active in Colorado; she was the only woman among them. She still had to overcome discrimination; for most of her years in practice black physicians and patients were not allowed at Denver General Hospital. Toward the end of her career she did receive admitting privileges at the hospital and membership in the Denver and Colorado medical societies.

            As Ford’s practice in Denver began, she traveled to patients’ homes by horse and buggy and then bicycle. Later she bought a car and hired a driver; Ford herself never learned to drive an automobile. She also used taxis to reach her patients, who lived both in the city and in often difficult to reach rural areas. In addition to fellow blacks, Ford treated poor whites, Mexicans, Greeks, Koreans, Hindus, Japanese and any others who sought care from her in that diverse western town. She accepted whatever patients could pay in cash or goods and claimed to have delivered 7000 babies (only 15% black!) in her long career.

            Whether Ford’s first husband accompanied her to Alabama and Colorado is currently unknown. She is known to have married Alfred Allen after her arrival in Denver, but she retained the name by which she was so well-known. Her religious home in Denver was the Zion Baptist Church. Early in her career Ford bought a nine-room house at 2335 Arapahoe Street, where she lived until her death. Although in later years she began to lose her sight, Ford treated patients until just weeks before she died. She was survived by her husband; the pair had no children.

            Shortly before her death, Ford was given the Human Relations Award by the Cosmopolitan Club of Denver. That award, plus her admission to the Denver and Colorado medical societies in 1950 meant that Ford received some recognition in her lifetime for her long career of patient care and self-sacrifice.

            Other recognitions have come since her death. In 1975 the Warren Library, an east Denver branch of the city’s public library system, was re-named the Ford-Warren Library. In February, 1984, the house on Arapahoe Street was moved to 3091 California Street to avoid demolition. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the home is now the location of the Black America West Museum and Heritage Center. Her first floor office and waiting room remain as she used them. The Dr. Justina Ford Medical Society was formed in 1987 to support black physicians training in Denver. The Colorado Medical Society, which for so many years rejected Ford as a member, passed a resolution in 1989 declaring her a “Medical Pioneer of Colorado.”

            Ford’s long career exemplifies the status of both female and African American physicians in America in the first half of the twentieth century. As Ford began her practice in 1900, there were about 7000 female physicians in the United States, or nearly five percent of all doctors. That percentage remained steady until the 1970s. In 1920, almost midway through her career, she was one of only 65 African American female physicians in the United States. The U.S. Census that year counted almost 3900 black male doctors. By 1930 the total number of black physicians had fallen to 3805.

            Justina Ford had to overcome both race and gender prejudice to carve out a successful practice. Black male and white female physicians had their own problems with obtaining an education, developing a practice, and relating to a white male medical establishment that mostly ostracized them. Ford, like other black female doctors, had a double set of problems to face. Perhaps both her personal drive and the fact that she settled in Denver, with its multi-racial population, made her remarkable career possible.

References:

Adele, Kristen. With These Hands: The Dr. Justina Ford Story. [A play written and directed by Ms. Adele and presented at the Black American West Museum in Denver,
Colorado, in 2009]

“Dr. Justina Ford: Honored as First black Female Physician in Colorado.” Colorado Medicine 86(4): 60, February 15, 1989

Harris, Mark. “The Forty Years of Justina Ford.” Negro Digest 8:42-45, March 1950

Johnson, Connie. “Dr. Justina Ford: Preserving the Legacy.” Odyssey West 7(2):4-5, March-April 1988

Lohse, Joyce B. Justina Ford, Medical Pioneer (2004)

Riley, Marilyn Griggs. “Denver’s Pioneering Physician and ‘Baby Doctor”: Justina L. Ford, M.D., 1871-1952” in Marilyn Griggs Riley, High Altitude Attitudes: Six Savy Colorado Women (2006)

Smith, Jessie Carney. “Justina L. Ford (1871-1952) Physician, humanitarian” in Jessie Carney Smith, ed. Notable Black American Women Book II (1996)

Tollette, Wallace Yvonne. Justina Lorena Ford, M.D.: Colorado’s First Black Woman Doctor (2005)

Tollette, Wallace Yvonne. Justina’s Dream (2005)

Known photographs:

  1. This photograph is at the African American Registry WWW page at

 


            It is also reproduced in the Smith item cited above.

  1. There are photographs of her and her home in the Johnson item cited above.
  2. There is a composite photo of her [older] and home in the Colorado Medicine piece.
  3. A search of Google Images will turn up several photos etc for Dr. Ford: http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&q=justina+ford
  4. Lohse, Riley and Tollette items cited above probably have photographs, but I have not yet seen these books. The Lohse and Tollette titles are intended for juvenile audiences.

**********************************************************************************************

*Mamie Alamanza Fort. Tulane, 1903. Cert Limestone Co Bd, 1905. [Trans MASA 1907, p112]

*Orcema Simenia Fowler. Memphis Hospital Medical College, 1904. Cert. Marion County Bd, 1904 [Trans MASA 1905, p77]

*Virginia D. Hamilton


 

Commencement ceremony for the Medical College of Alabama, October 25, 1946.  Homer W. Allgood, Jr., and Virginia D. Hamilton examine a diploma from the medical school's first commencement in Birmingham.  Allgood was the first person to receive a diploma at the ceremony and Hamilton was the first female in the history of the medical school to receive the MD degree. [Photo from UAB Archives]

FEMALE?? *Lottie C. Isbell. Amer Med Miss Coll, 1902. [Trans MASA 1907, p.111]

FEMALE?? *Beverly Johnson. Tuscumbia, Colbert Co. [Trans MASA 1892, p207] Johnston [Trans MASA 1894, p212] Johnson [Trans MASA 1889, p168 and 1895, p168]

*Mary Scott Jones. Woman's Med Coll Penn. Cert. refused, Montgomery Co Bd [Trans MASA 1895, pp 102 & 209]

*Ellen Lee Barret Ligon. D.O. Am Sch Osteopathy, 1900. Cert state bd, 1903. [Trans MASA 1903, p82] Cert state board, 1900. Mobile. [Trans MASA 1920, p359] Alabama Deaths, 1908-1959 [V4, Role 3, Comment G, p. 1571] has Ellen L.B. Ligon as dying in Mobile County in January, 1932.

*Greenwood Ligon. Mrs. [SAME AS ABOVE?] Osteopathic Institute, Kirkwood, MO. State bd cert, 1903. Mobile. [Trans MASA 1905, p. 560] Alabama Deaths, 1908-1959 [V17, Role 1] has a Greenwood  Ligon as dying in Mobile County on March 10, 1911. Presumable Ellen L.B. Ligon's husband.

*Anna Mary Longshore-Potts. Woman's Med Coll Penn 1851. State cert refused, 1892. [Trans MASA 1892, p142] Born 1829. Died October 24, 1912, in San Diego, California. NY license 1898, also practiced in Philadelphia and Adrian, Michigan. Woman's Medical Coll Penn, 1852. Died of senile debility. [AMA. Directory of Deceased American Physicians 1804-1929 1:945] A long entry on Potts can be found in Willard, Frances E. and Mary A. Livermore, A Woman of the Century: Fourteen Hundred-Seventy Biographical Sketches Accompanied by Portraits of Leading American Women in All Walks of Life [Buffalo: Charles Wells Moulton, 1893, pp 586-587]




Anna M. Longshore Potts, M.D.
[from her book Love, Courtship and Marriage published in 1891]


*Jimmie Ethel Montgomery. On May 26, 1925, Montgomery received a bachelor's degree in medicine from the two-year basic sciences program at the University of Alabama becoming the first female graduate of the medical school. In 1928 Montgomery received the M.D. from the University of Minnesota. She was a general practitioner in Bibb County, Alabama, and died in 1982.


Image: The University of Alabama Corolla yearbook ca. 1925 via 

http://www.uab.edu/archives/iom/all 


*Marion R. Moorman. Chattanooga Med Coll, 1900. Madison County. Huntsville.

Member county medical society. [Committee of Medical Women, General Medical Board. Council of National Defense. Census of Women Physicians, November 11, 1918. Rochester, NY: American Women's Hospitals, 1918, p5] Marion Ridley Moorman. Univ South, 1900. Cert Madison Co Bd, 1901. Huntsville. Member, Madison Co Med Soc [Trans MASA 1920, p350]

*Daisy L. Northcross. Bennett Medical College, Chicago. Montgomery County. 107 Monroe Street, Montgomery. [Committee of Medical Women, General Medical Board. Council of National Defense. Census of Women Physicians, November 11, 1918. Rochester, NY: American Women's Hospitals, 1918, p5]

*Alexandria Hamilton Oden. Non-graduate. Cert. Cullman Bd, yr not given. Lawrence Cove. [Trans MASA 1895, p211]

FEMALE?? *Hilary F. Oliver. Univ of Penn Phila, 1858. Birmingham. Died in Woodlawn, May 18, 1914, age 76. [JAMA 63(7):595, 1914. AMA. Directory of Deceased American Physicians 1804-1929 2:1172] Listed as Hillary Francis Oliver, Univ Penn, 1859. Cert Butler Co Bd, 1881. Woodlawn. [Trans MASA 1900, p189] Birmingham.   [Directory of women physicians of California, Alabama...Woman's Medical J 20(3):68, March 1910]  Apparently NOT female; women were not admitted to UPenn med sch until 1880s...

*Agnes Christy Patterson. Boston Univ, 1900. State bd cert refused, 1907. [Trans MASA 1907, p.107]

*Willena Peck. Woman's Medical Coll, Baltimore, 1900. Cert state, 1915. Montevallo. Member Shelby Co Med Soc [Trans MASA 1920, p375] Willma Abby Peck. Shelby Co. Montevallo. Member of county medical society. Member of Medical Women's National Association. [Committee of Medical Women, General Medical Board. Council of National Defense. Census of Women Physicians, November 11, 1918. Rochester, NY: American Women's Hospitals, 1918, p5] Dr. Peck was resident physician at the University of Montevallo from 1915 until her retirement in 1952. Students claimed that she dispensed "Peck's Pink Pills for Pale People." Peck Hall, the dormitory named after her, opened on the campus in 1981. [Tipton, Mary Frances. Years Rich and Fruitful: University of Montevallo 1896-1996. Montevallo: The University, 1996, pp 79 and 140; page 79 includes a photograph of Dr. Peck]

*Edith Mindwell Phelps. Boston Univ, 1901. Cert state bd, 1902 [Trans MASA 1902, p82]

*Annie May Robinson. Bham. Woman's Med Coll Penn, 1905. Died October 1, 1920, aged 55. [JAMA 75(17):1149, 1920] Born May 14, 1865, in Smithsburg, MD. Specialty listed as obstetrics. Cert. in Alabama, 1907. Educated in common schools in Maryland and Temple College, Phila. [AMA. Directory of Deceased American Physicians 1804-1929 2: 1317] Provided birth control to Minnie McGehee Branscomb ca. World War I. Branscomb was mother of Louise Branscomb, who graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical School and opened her practice in Birmingham in 1931. Minnie was wife of Rev. L.C. Branscomb, a prominent north Alabama Methodist minister. [Mitchell, Anne Virginia. Swimming in the Mainstream: Louise H. Branscomb, M.D., of Birmingham, Alabama. M.A. thesis, University of North Carolina, 1991, p. 9] Cert. Jeff Co Bd, 1907. Birmingham. Listed as member of Jeff Co Med Soc. [Trans MASA 1910, p639] Member American Medical Association. 1603 South 13th Street, Birmingham. [Committee of Medical Women, General Medical Board. Council of National Defense. Census of Women Physicians, November 11, 1918. Rochester, NY: American Women's Hospitals, 1918, p5] Birmigham. Member American Medical Association. [Directory of women physicians of California, Alabama....Woman's Medical J 20(6):135, June 1910] Birmingham. Member of American Medical Association. [Directory of women physicians of California, Alabama...Woman's Medical J 20(3):68, March 1910] Cert. Jeff Co Bd, 1907. [Trans MASA 1907, p. 111] Cert. Jeff Co Bd 1906. Birmingham. [Trans MASA 1907, p491] Birmingham. Member Jeff Co Med Soc. Cert Jeff Co Bd, 1907 [Trans MASA 1920, p330] 1905 graduate. 620 North 19th Street, Birmingham. [Polk's Medical Register and Directory of the United States and Canada, 1910. Detroit: Polk's, 1910, p. 215]

*Florence Turner Roper. Mobile. [Directory of women physicians of California, Alabama....Woman's Medical J 20(6):135, June 1910] Mobile. [Directory of women physicians of California, Alabama...Woman's Medical J 20(3):68, March 1910] Alabama Deaths, 1908-1959 [V36, Role 1, Certificate 348] has a Florence T. Roper as dying in Tuscaloosa County on August 15, 1915.

FEMALE?? *Eliza G. Sandlin. 1907. Pansey (pop. 18), Houston County. [Polk's Medical Register and Directory of the United States and Canada, 1910. Detroit: Polk's, 1910, p. 225]

*Lottie Dee Swisher. Cullman Co. Vinemont. [Committee of Medical Women, General Medical Board. Council of National Defense. Census of Women Physicians, November 11, 1918. Rochester, NY: American Women's Hospitals, 1918, p5]

*Blanche Beatrice Thompson. Meharry, 1901. Cert. Tallapoosa Co Bd, 1903. [Trans MASA 1904, p101] Moved from Alexander City to Opelika. [Trans MASA 1904, p570]

*Naomi Price Underwood. Chattanooga MC, 1906. Franklin Co. Phil Campbell. [Committee of Medical Women, General Medical Board. Council of National Defense. Census of Women Physicians, November 11, 1918. Rochester, NY: American Women's Hospitals, 1918, p5]
Neoma Price Underwood. Belgreen, Alabama. [Directory of women physicians of California, Alabama....Woman's Medical J 20(6):135, June 1910] Neoma price Underwood.  Belgreen, Alabama. [Directory of women physicians of California, Alabama...Woman's Medical J 20(3):68, March 1910]  Naoma Price Underwood. Chattanooga MC, 1906. Cert. Franklin Co Bd, 1907 [Trans MASA 1907, 110] Chattanooga MC, 1906. Cert Franklin Co Bd, 1906. Phil Campbell. [Trans MASA 1920, p312] [NOT FEMALE; HE WAS ERRONEOUSLY LISTED AS SUCH IN THE ABOVE DIRECTORIES]

J. Hester Ward. Tuscaloosa. [Directory of women physicians of California, Alabama....Woman's Medical J 20(6):135, June 1910]   

*Ionia R. Whipper. "In 1903, Ionia R. Whipper, a member of the 1903 graduating class of Howard Medical School, succeeded Johnson and became the second black woman resident physician at Tuskegee Institute. Reflecting social change, however, Whipper was restricted to the care of female students at the institute. After leaving Tuskegee, Whipper returned to Washington, D.C., where she established a home to care for unwed, pregnant, school-age black girls."
[Hine DC. Co-laborers in the work of the Lord: nineteenth-century black women physicians. In: Abram RJ, ed. Send Us a Lady Physician: Women Doctors in America, 1835-1920. New York: Norton, 1985, 114] So far, I have been unable to confirm Whipper's presence at Tuskegee. She is not listed among Macon County physicians for either 1903 or 1904 in the Transactions of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama. “Ionia Rollin Whipper was born in Beaufort , S.C. , September 8, 1872. Her father, William J. Whipper..Her mother, Frances Anne (Rollin) Whipper…” [Ionia R. Whipper Home Established 1931 Washington , DC . Compiled by Paul E. Sluby, Sr., Edited by Stanton L. Wormley. Washington , D.C. : Columbian Harmony Society, 1984, pp. 3-4]  Entry by Rosalyn Terborg-Penn is included in Logan and Winston, Dictionary of Negro Biography. New York : Norton, 1981, pp. 642-643. Material on Dr. Whipper in Lelia Frances Whipper, Pretty Way Home (iUniverse.com, 2003) and Carole Ione, Pride of Family: Four Generations of American Women of Color (New York: Summit Books, 1991). Dr. Whipper was Ione’s great-aunt; book includes photographs of Dr. Whipper.

*Elizabeth White. Birmingham Medical College, 1899 (March 29). BMC list of graduates gives home city as Birmingham. [UAB Archives] State certification refused sometime during the  year ending March 31, 1900. [Trans MASA 1900, p108]

 

 

GENERAL BIBLIOGRAPHY: WOMEN IN MEDICINE. DENTISTRY AND NURSING

 

Listings of books, videos and research materials on this topic from the U.S. National Library of Medicine are available at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/changingthefaceofmedicine/resources/reading.html  These resources accompany the library's "Changing the Face of Medicine: Celebrating America's Women Physicians" at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/changingthefaceofmedicine/index.html Four Alabama physicians, including Dr. Halle Tanner Dillon Johnson, are included in this exhibit.  

The Archives for Women in Medicine Project [Center for the History of Medicine, Countway Library, Harvard Medical School] is at https://www.countway.harvard.edu/menuNavigation/chom/awm.html 

Celebrating the Philanthropy of Mary Elizabeth Garrett: Champion of Women in Medicine
http://www.medicalarchives.jhmi.edu/garrett/index.htm

 

Abrams, Ruth J., ed. Send Us a Lady Physician: Women Doctors in America. New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1985.

Beyer Perett, Diane. "Tact and Tenacity: Women in American Medicine", Stanford MD, Winter 1975, 21-25.

Brown, Adelaide, "The History and Development of Women in Medicine in California", Medical Woman's Journal, Jan. 1926, 17-20.

Chung, King-Thom. Women Pioneers of Medical Research: Biographies of 25 Outstanding Scientists. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2010

Gibbons, Henry, "The Woman Question in Medicine," Pacific Medical and Surgical Journal, Jan. 1870, 363-65.

Mason-Hohl, Elizabeth, "Early California and Its Medical Women, The Medical Woman's Journal, April 1943, 89-91.

Still, Claire, "A Woman's Lib Centennial", Stanford MD, Spring 1976, 27-28.

Washington BT. Training colored nurses at Tuskegee. American Journal of Nursing 11(1): 167-171, 1910

 




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