Rebecca Cole, pioneering doctor
*Rebecca J. Cole was born on this date in 1846. She was one of the first Black woman physicians in America and was the first Black woman to graduate from the Woman’s Medical College in Pennsylvania.
She was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and received her secondary education from the Institute for Colored Youth (now Cheyney University), graduating in 1863. Rebecca Cole received her medical degree from Woman’s Medical College (now part of Allegheny University of the Health Sciences) in 1867. The Allegheny University of the Health Sciences no longer exists. Its parent organization, the school is administered by Drexel University. From 1872-1881, women physicians appointed Cole as a resident physician at the New York Infirmary for Women and Children a hospital owned and operated.
Dr. Cole worked with Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first white American woman physician to receive a medical degree. Blackwell assigned Cole to the post of sanitary visitor, a position in which a traveling physician would visit families in their homes in slum neighborhoods and instruct them in family hygiene, prenatal, and infant care. Dr. Cole practiced medicine in Columbia, South Carolina for a time and returned to Philadelphia to open an office in the South Philadelphia section of the city.
In 1873, with assistance from fellow woman physician Charlotte Abbey, Dr. Rebecca Cole started a Women’s Directory Center to provide medical and legal services to destitute women and children in Philadelphia. Dr. Rebecca Cole practiced medicine for fifty years. Dr. Rebecca Cole died on August 14, 1922.
Black Women in America An Historical Encyclopedia
Volumes 1 and 2, edited by Darlene Clark Hine
Copyright 1993, Carlson Publishing Inc., Brooklyn, New York
Image: U.S. National Library of Medicine, 8600 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20894