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Virginia Alexander, 1934
*Virginia Alexander was born on this date in 1899. She was a Black physician, public health researcher, and administrator.
Virginia Margaret Alexander was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Hilliard Alexander and Virginia Pace. She had four siblings, including attorney Raymond Pace Alexander. Alexander's mother died when she was 4 years old, and at age 13 her father's riding academy closed. Alexander withdrew from school to help relieve the resulting economic strain on her family, but her father insisted that she finish her education.
Alexander was a graduate of the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania. After college, Virginia Alexander attended the Medical College of Pennsylvania and then completed her internship at Kansas City General Hospital. After becoming the first woman physician in the state of Missouri, Alexander returned and opened a practice in North Philadelphia. In 1931 Dr. Virginia Alexander founded the Aspiranto Health Home in her own house. She cared for the very poorest members of her community in the third largest African American community in America at that time.
After founding the Well Baby Clinic, she founded, she was known as the "guardian of the health of Negro women" because of her work with Black mothers and newborns. "If we can reduce the incidence of death at both ends of Negro life in the United States, we can add greatly to the overall contribution which our group can make to the Nation as a whole. To do this we will have to send physicians into sections which have no bright lights and little social enterprise, take public health information across the railroad tracks, and above all, give knowledge to Negro women who are going to become mothers."
She became close friends with Sadie Mossell during their undergraduate years at the University of Pennsylvania, and it was through Virginia that Sadie and Raymond met. In 1935 she was responsible for bringing Dr. Helen O. Dickens to Philadelphia to join her in the practice of medicine. Later, after graduate work at Yale University School of Medicine, she entered the field of public health, serving as medical advisor for Howard University from 1937 to 1941 and then, during World War II, with the United States Public Health Service.
When Virginia Alexander returned to Philadelphia after the war, she specialized in obstetrics and gynecology, serving on the staffs of the Woman's Medical College Hospital, Pennsylvania Hospital and Mercy-Douglass Hospital until her death from Lupus on July 24, 1949.
Image: University of Pennsylvania