Updated: Feb 17
"a proper field for real missionary work, and one that would present ample opportunities to become acquainted with the diseases of women and children."
- Rebecca Lee Crumpler
Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler is the first black woman in United States history to receive her medical degree. Born in Delaware in 1831 to Absolum Davis and Matilda Webber, not much is known about her childhood except that her aunt in Pennsylvania eventually raised her. Her aunt became the influence that impacted her life and started her on the path to working in the medical field.
Her aunt was known to have a healing presence in the community. I'm sure if you are of African American lineage, you too can relate to hearing of those individuals that the community went to when they were sick or when women were getting ready to deliver their babies. Honestly, those are the same traditions and wisdom many of us still listen to and use today.
Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler began working as a nurse, assisting doctors between the years of 1852 and 1860 in the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston, Ma. She noted, that these doctors wrote letters recommending her to attend the New England Female Medical College, where she received her Doctorate of Medicine. She researched issues that impacted women and children and aided formerly enslaved people.
In her lifetime, she wrote and published "A Book of Medical Discourses." Her book was written to advise and instruct Black women directly about safeguarding their health and that of their children.
There is a great deal that is not known about Dr. Rebecca's life, and many question the pictures that are being shared of her and their validity. Yet, what cannot be questioned is her contribution to the health and wellness of her people. Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler moved from Boston to Virginia after the Thirteenth Amendment, where she continued her work in the medical field. Upon retirement, she moved back to her home in Boston, where she eventually passed at the age of 64.