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On this date in 1872, we celebrate the birth of Matilda Evans, a Black surgeon and administrator.
The oldest of three children born to Harriet and Andy Evans, Matilda Arabelle Evans, was from Aiken County, South Carolina. As a student at the Scholfield Normal and Industrial School, she became a protégé of the school's founder, educator Martha Scholfield. Evans attended Oberlin College in Ohio before enrolling at the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania to earn a medical degree. She then returned to South Carolina to practice surgery, gynecology, and obstetrics. Evans opened her medical practice in Columbia, which, at that time, offered no hospital facilities for Blacks.
With generosity, Evans took patients into her own home until she could establish a hospital. In 1901, she established the Taylor Lane Hospital, both a hospital and a training school for nurses. The hospital was later destroyed by a fire that led to another hospital before moving to a larger facility named the St. Luke's Hospital and Training School for Nurses. In 1918, she became a registered volunteer in the Medical Service Corps of the United States Army. She also founded the Good Health Association of South Carolina to help convince people that they could improve their health by following sound health practices and safe sanitary habits.
Charity, compassion, and a love of children were the hallmarks of Dr. Evans' career; she charged only nominal fees. She rode bicycles, horses and buggies to visit the sick who could not go to her surgery. She provided for school physical examinations and immunizations, which saved countless young children's lives. In 1930, she operated a free clinic for Black children who needed medical treatment and vaccinations. Evans found the time to raise 11 children who needed a home.
Dr. Evans' Home/Office
In addition to becoming a "mother" to some of the children left at her practice, she brought up five children from relatives who had died. She taught the children respect, cleanliness, and manners and allowed them a college education. People, young and old, enjoyed the facilities that she shared at a recreational center that she developed on her 20-acre farm.
Evans was an active member of St. Luke's Episcopal Church, and she loved swimming, dancing, knitting, and playing the piano. Richland Memorial Hospital in Columbia, S.C., has named an award in her honor.
The first Black woman to be licensed as a physician in South Carolina, Matilda Evans, died in 1935.