Dr. Eliza Ann Grier

Dr. Eliza Ann Grier had once been a slave. She went on to become the first African American woman licensed to practice medicine in the state of Georgia. After emancipation, Eliza Grier decided to become a teacher, studying for seven years at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. But she aspired to a career as a physician, believing she could be of most benefit to others and earn a fair wage if she had a medical education. “When I saw colored women doing all the work in cases of accouchement ... or, childbirth and all the fee going to some white doctor who merely looked on, I asked myself why should I not get the fee myself.” So, in December of 1890, Eliza Grier wrote to the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. “I have no money and no source from which to get it,” she wrote, “Only as I work for every dollar.” She asked the dean “if there was any possible way for an emancipated slave to receive any help into so lofty a profession.” She was admitted, but to pay the tuition, Eliza Grier alternated each year of study with a year of picking cotton. Despite these hardships, she did not lose sight of her goal. After seven years of work and study, she graduated in 1897, and returned to Atlanta. Later that year, Dr. Eliza Ann Grier became the first African American woman licensed to practice medicine in the state of Georgia. After only four years, Dr. Grier fell ill and was unable to maintain her medical practice. Determined to keep up with her work, she called on various supporters for help. She wrote to Susan B. Anthony, leader of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, to ask for her help, but died soon thereafter. As she said in 1898: “I went to Philadelphia, studied medicine hard, procured my degree, and have come back to Atlanta, where I have lived all my life, to practice my profession... Some of the best white doctors in the city have welcomed me, and say that they will give me an even chance in the profession. That is all I ask.” The North American Medical Review reported: “She will hang out her shingle for general practice, and says she will make no discrimination on account of color.” Dr. Eliza Grier realized a remarkable achievement.