Doctor or Doctress?

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Eliza Anna Grier was an African American who graduated from Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1897. In 1901 Grier was practicing medicine in South Carolina and struggling to maintain her practice while battling health issues of her own. On March 7 of that year Grier wrote to Susan B. Anthony, President of the National Woman Suffrage Association, to appeal to her for financial help.

Why It Matters

Dr. Grier, sick with “La grippe” (the flu) and struggling to keep her practice afloat because most of her patients were poor and presumably not always able to pay for her care, sought the assistance of Susan B. Anthony, one the most famous women’s rights advocate and social reformers of her time. That Grier thought to appeal to this prominent white woman for help speaks to the changes in a society where women of disparate backgrounds found some common cause in the struggle to gain equal rights.

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Analyze this evidence

  • Why do you think Dr. Grier wrote to Susan B. Anthony for help? Do you think they knew each other?
  • What do you think Dr. Grier means when she writes that “there are a great many forces operating against...the Negro in business”?
  • What are some of the reasons Dr. Grier is struggling to pay her expenses and keep her practice open?

Listen to this document read aloud

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Dear Miss Anthony, I write to you because I believe you will listen to my appeal and in some way help me. I am a young Negro woman. I am engaged in the practice of medicine in Greenville, South Carolina. I have made a pretty good practice, but mostly among the very poor and in neglected districts. By and by I hope to get something from that source. I have been quite ill for six weeks with La Grippe. I have not been able to make a single dollar. My expenses are going on just the same. I cannot retain my place of business unless someone will help me. Rent is $12.00 per month and this place is the only one that can be had downtown now. There are a great many forces operating against the sources of the Negro in business. This, however I hope someday will be overcome. The only thing that impedes my progress is that I am trying hard to carry on my part, and am illy prepared in a financial way to continue when hardships and want come on. I graduated from the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, class of 1897. Please help me in this my time of severe trial and want for I need assistance in a financial way. May the blessed master incline your heart in this matter. I am yours sincerely, Eliza Anna Grier, M.D.