To celebrate women’s contribution to medicine, Rebecca J. Cole (16th March 1845-14th August 1922) was the second African-American female doctor, in the USA. Dr. Rebecca J. Cole was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and was the second of five children. There is little known about Dr. Rebecca J. Cole’s biography, or photographs of her. However, what is known is that she was one of the most influential and potent female medics of the mid-century.
Women Breaking into the Medical Field
Dr. Rebecca J. Cole was an advocate for the poor community and a social worker for women’s health. She changed the face of medicine as one of few women from an ethnic background, who trained in an all-female institution in mid-century. The institution was a break through for women of the time, as it was also run and managed by an all- female leadership team.
Before this Dr. Rebecca. J. Cole attended high school at the Institute for Colored Youth. Here she studied Latin, Greek and mathematics. In 1867 she graduated from the Women’s Medical School of Pennsylvania, working along- side the first ever female Dean of an educational institution, Anne Preston. The Women’s Medical School of Pennsylvania was the world’s first ever medical institution for women of color to study, gain academic qualifications and become proud of their ability to call themselves doctors.
Dr. Rebecca J. Cole’s Influence within Medicine
In lower Manhattan, New York after her qualification in medicine she worked at Elizabeth Blackwell‘s New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children. It was here that Dr. Rebecca J. Cole had her greatest influence. At the infirmary she promoted and encouraged access to health care for women from poorer backgrounds. She was a strong advocate for advising women on paternal hygiene. Following her work here she went on to south Carolina to practice.
Fighting for Women’s Rights
In 1873 Dr. Rebecca J. Cole returned to Philadelphia and opened the Women’s Directory Centre The centre was a calling point for women with little support, destitute or in desperate need of medical or legal advice. In 1899 she was appointed as a director of the Association for the Relief of Destitute Colored Women and Children in Washington, DC.
Dr. Rebecca J. Cole practiced medicine for some fifty years, sadly, there is little facts or evidence to show her influential and highly important work for women, children and the Black and Ethnic community of her time. She passed away in August 1922. The 16th March was her birthday, so from all at CTM thank you for your contribution to medicine and advocacy for women within the Black and Ethnic community happy birthday Dr. Cole!
For more interesting reading see CTM’s Black and Ethnic News column.