Many Black women have played a role in the advancement of medical sciences throughout the ages. However, the names of these women are not well-known. With this unique feature, we pay tribute to the life and accomplishments of one Black pioneer, Rebecca Lee Crumpler, Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler.
Rebecca Lee Crumpler Facts
Rebecca Lee Crumpler, born Rebecca Davis (February 8, 1831 – March 9, 1895), was an American physician, writer, nurse, and physician. After completing her studies at the New England Female Medical College In 1864, Crumpler became the first woman of African descent to be a medical doctor in the United States. Crumpler was among the first female authors of medical texts in the 19th century.
In 1883 Crumpler released the book A Book of Medical Discourses. The book is divided into two parts which cover the treatment and prevention of infantile bowel problems as well as the lives and development of humans. It is dedicated to mothers and nurses and mothers. The book focuses on pediatric and maternal medical care. It was one of the first works that an African American wrote about medicine.
Crumpler was a graduate of medical school in the era when only a few African Americans were allowed to go to medical school or write books. Crumpler initially practiced medicine in Boston with a focus on helping women and children in need. Following her time in the American Civil War ended in 1865and Crumpler moved to Richmond, Virginia, as she believed that treating children and women was the best way to fulfill her mission. The Freedmen’s Bureau employed Crumpler to provide medical assistance to the freed slaves.
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Rebecca Lee Crumpler Early Life
Rebecca Davis was born on February 8, 1831, in Delaware. Her mother was her aunt, who lived in Pennsylvania. Aunty often took care of patients of her neighbors. This inspired Rebecca to pursue medical school. In 1852, she moved to Charlestown, Massachusetts. She was an assistant nurse until 1859. In the year 1860, Rebecca accepted admission into the New England Female Medical College. She received her Medical degree in the year 1864. The same year, she was also married to Arthur Crumpler.
Rebecca Lee Crumpler Career
Crumpler was a physician for a short period of time during her time in Boston, Massachusetts, before she relocated to Richmond, Virginia, in 1865. It was the year 1865. American Civil War was just over, and slavery was finally over. Crumpler was aware of the urgent need for medical attention for the newly freed slaves in Richmond, So she teamed up with a variety of missionaries or Black communities to assist those in need.
Crumpler was back in Boston in 1869. She started a medical practice and concentrated on the diseases that affected children and women who were poor. Her book, A Book of Medical Discourses Part 2 parts (1883), studies the health of children and women. Crumpler passed away on March 9, 1895, located in Hyde Park, Massachusetts.
Interesting Facts About Rebecca Lee Crumpler
1. Rebecca’s impressive ability and the necessity created through the wartime Civil War earned her acceptance into medical school.
Due to institutionalized gender discrimination and racism, the odds were extremely low for women, particularly Black women, to gain admission to medical schools in the latter part of the 19th century. Crumpler was able to begin her studies at New England Female Medical College. New England Female Medical College because of two reasons.
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First, she’d spent five years in the field of nursing and earned an impressive reputation. she was awarded a competitive scholarship, in addition to an individual recommendation from doctors they worked with. In addition, the Civil War stretched the medical system to its limits, and by the year 1860, many veterans needed urgent medical attention, which led to many opportunities for medical students who weren’t traditional.
2. After graduation, Crumpler worked for the Freedmen’s Bureau to provide medical treatment to previously enslaved Black people.
Following the North had won during the Civil War, the Freedmen’s Bureau was established in 1865 in order to aid in the rebuilding of the South by offering assistance and services to Black people who had just been taken into slavery.
A lot of these wrongfully enslaved people had never been to a doc, had been refused medical attention by their former slave owners, or had endured traumatic encounters with a medical system that regarded them as subhuman. Crumpler was a fervent participant in her involvement in her work with the Freedmen’s Bureau in West Virginia and remarked about her incident:
“During my time there, nearly every hour was increased in this sphere of work. The final quarter of 1866 was the time I was able… to gain access to the vast majority of the homeless and others from different classes, with a total of more than 30,000. …”
3. A lot of her colleagues believed that her mind had been (literally) less than they do.
In the early 19th century, the obsolete study known as phrenology, which was the precise analysis of skull size to determine intelligence and other mental faculties, was widely accepted as reliable. Many men were at the time, and doctors believed that a woman’s skull (and consequently, the brain) was 10% smaller than the male’s on average.
They also believed that women, especially Black women, would never be able to compete with men intellectually. Crumpler was subjected to extreme discrimination based on gender and race in her professional and personal life. The basic tasks of a day job which were easy for male doctors of the white race, such as filling prescriptions or gaining attention on her medical advice and papers, were more difficult for her.
There was even a joke that the MD that followed her name did not mean medical doctor but “Mule Driver.” However, Rebecca proved determined and tenacious and endured the circumstances.
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4. Crumpler was the author of one of the first works on Black mother health.
In 1883, following more than 20 years of practice with the poor Black population, Crumpler drew on her personal notes on her clinic and the latest research to create ” A Book of Medical Discourses.”
The groundbreaking book addresses topics that were not typically studied in depth back then, like digestive issues of infants and babies and the remedies for them and the health risks of early marriages, and ways to ensure women are healthy prior to, during pregnancy, and after birth.