February Tempest Challenge Day 2

Black Women in 19th Century American Life | Tempest Challenge BHM

This entry is part 2 of 18 in the series Tempest Challenge: Black History Month

A couple of years ago I wrote a piece for NPR Books highlighting literature that proves Black people existed in certain time periods (despite popular misconception) and that, where they existed, they were more than just The Help. My favorite of the books I mentioned is Black Women in Nineteenth-Century American Life: Their Words, Their Thoughts, Their Feelings. I like this one best because it’s a collection of contemporary writings by these women, not just about them. One of the best ways to understand history and the people in it is to read their own words.

The biggest reason I wanted to include this book is because it contains the writings of Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler:

The first African American to publish a medical text… also the first black woman to earn a medical degree. She wasn’t alone in this for long; within a few years she was joined by Rebecca J. Cole and Susan McKinney Steward, and by 1900 there were also Matilda Arabella Evans, Ida Gray Nelson Robbins, Eliza Ann Grier, and Sarah Parker Remond.

For Remond, her career as a doctor was a second one. She was a prominent lecturer and abolitionist who traveled throughout the US and to Europe to lecture against slavery, rouse foreign support for the Union cause, and advocate for freedmen once the war ended. She retired to Florence, Italy — where she earned a medical degree and set up a practice that lasted for 20 years. She never went back to America.

Did you ever learn about this woman in school? I sure didn’t. Just like we didn’t learn about Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, or Mary Jackson of Hidden Figures fame.