Women’s History Trivia: First Female African American Physician

The New England Female Medical College (Image Source: Wikipedia Commons)

By: Alyssa Bradley

Trivia Question: Rebecca Lee Crumpler was the first African-American woman to become a _______ (occupation) in the United States. 

Answer: Physician

Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler is recognized for becoming the first African-American woman physician in the United States. As a young girl, she grew up in a house with her aunt who took care of the ill. Rebecca was always considered a “special student” and was allowed to attend many prestigious private schools because of her intellect.

Later in life, she pursued her shared family passion for medicine.  During 1860, Crumpler applied and was accepted into the New England Female Medical College. This institution was founded in 1848 and had only started accepting its first female student, a class of 12, in 1850. The women at this college faced ridicule from male physicians who derided the institution. They complained that women “lacked the physical strength to practice medicine”. Others thought that women were incapable of understanding a medical curriculum and that the topics taught were inappropriate for their “sensitive and delicate nature”.

In 1860, there were only 300 women out of 54,543 physicians in the United States–and none of them were African American. Despite the discouraging odds, in 1864 Crumpler became her school’s only African-American graduate.

After completing her schooling, Crumpler relocated to Richmond, Virginia where she found her calling. She discovered “the proper field for real missionary work, and one that would present ample opportunities to become acquainted with the diseases of women and children.” It was here she worked under the Freedman’s Bureau, an agency dedicated to helping newly freed African American slaves.

Throughout the rest of her practice, Rebecca faced daily issues of racism and sexism from her colleagues, pharmacists, and many others. Rebecca Lee Crumpler continued to practice medicine and even wrote a book called A Book of Medical Discourses in Two Parts. She passed in 1895. Crumpler achieved many things in the name of gender and women’s equity and paved the way for many of those who continue to defy adversity.

Keep your hands to yourself!

 

By: Jetzel Chavira

“Don’t Touch My Hair” is a powerful anthem that Grammy-award winning artist Solange Knowles wrote in 2016. In an interview with Natelegé Whaley for the Huff Post, Solange recalls an experience where a white woman came up to her and petted her fro.

This made me think about the many times I walked through Target with my best friend who is a Black American woman, and how she could not find products for her hair. I think about how my own hair is wavy and it’s not hard for me to find hair products. My hair is not seen as a spectacle. I have never once been asked for my hair to be touched.

So, the next time you see someone whose hair is different than yours, check yourself before you do or say anything. Check out Solange’s song “Don’t Touch My Hair” ft. Sampha here.

 

Women’s History Month: Sojourner Truth

By Morgan Clark

Sojourner Truth is known for her work as an abolitionist and her work in the Civil War that caught the attention of President Abraham Lincoln. Born Isabella Baumfree in 1797, she was born into slavery in New York and was sold to her first slave master at the age of 9. He was known to beat and abuse his slaves regularly. At the age of 13, she was sold again to her second slave master. Around 1815, Isabella was forced to marry a slave and bore five children, after being forced apart from the man she loved.

In 1827 she ran away to freedom, after her master did not honor his promise to free her and the other slaves. She ended up in New Paltz, New York, with her newborn daughter. There, she was taken in by the Wagenens, who eventually paid for her freedom for $20. Isabella then sued her previous slave master for illegally selling her son, Peter. She was the first black woman to sue a white man and win. In 1829, she moved her family to New York City,  where she became a Christian and became heavily involved in the Church. She worked closely with two preachers. In 1843 she renamed herself Sojourner Truth because she believed it was her religious obligation to go out and speak the truth. The year after she joined a Massachusetts abolitionist group, where she metFredrick Douglas who had a great influence on her career as an abolitionist.

In 1851, at the Ohio Women’s Right Convention Sojourner Truth gave her famous speech “Ain’t I a Woman?” which addressed the intersection of being a woman and black in that time period. During the convention, she met women’s activists Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Lady Stanton.

During the Civil War, Sojourner Truth was an advocate for young men to join the Union. She was able to organize supplies for the young men. Because of her work, she was invited to the White House and recruited to be involved with the Freedmen’s Bureau. She was able to find jobs for freed slaves. During this time, she tried to lobby against segregation and fought to give land to freed slaves. Sojourner Truth was a woman ahead of her time, speaking of intersectionality before it was a term and knowing that segregation was wrong. She died at her home on November 26, 1883. Her tombstone stating, “Is God Dead?” refers to a question she asked her colleague Fredrick Douglas to remind him to stay faithful.

CROWN: What it is, Where is it, and What Does it Mean?

By Emma Gilham

Last month, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed when an article by ACLU Missouri caught my eye. It was titled “Claiming My Crown: Justice Gatson” by Justice Gatson. In her narrative, she describes how aware she was, as a young Black child, of society’s preference for straight hair. While I knew that the Eurocentric beauty standards portrayed in media could reinforce numerous body image issues for women and men outside of those standards, I had not truly considered the real-world impact of these societal preferences. Once I realized this, I believed my privilege was behind my ignorance, and so I did a bit more research. What I found was eye opening.

A study cited in the CNN article “Black women with natural hairstyles are less likely to get job interviews” by Jack Guy, found that Black women with natural hairstyles were less likely to be considered for an interview in the job-hiring process compared to Black women with straight hair, white women with straight hair, and white women with curly hair. In another study, a gauge of professionalism also became dependent on whether a Black woman wore her hair straight or natural.  As one may guess, when she wore her hair straight, she was considered more professional.

Gatson discusses how legislation to protect against hair-based discrimination is long overdue, “It wasn’t until 2017 that the U.S. military decreed that dreadlocks and locks were acceptable hairstyles.” A national campaign to end legal hair discrimination in the workplace known as the CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair) act has passed in seven states so far, shown in The Official Campaign for the CROWN Act’s map. Missouri filed the CROWN Act in 2019, but it did not pass.

Finally, Gatson said it best, “Black hair is politicized, and Black people pay a price for being who we are.” It is biased and inappropriate of workplaces and schools to expect Black people to pay for and acquire potentially damaging hair alterations so that they can fit into some box labeled “acceptable”. In addition, I find the slew of diversity and inclusion initiatives used to “combat racism in the workplace” disappointing because when it truly comes down to it, we must all do more to confront our deep biases than attend a 45-minute required training.

Maya Moore: The Evolution of a Hero

 

By Morgan Clark

Maya Moore in the Olympics

Growing up I was a big college basketball fan. I liked men and women basketball. I would sit and watch the ball games every chance I got with both of my parents. There were quite of few players and teams who left an impression on me, but one of the most impactful ones was Maya Moore, who played for the University of Connecticut. Moore was a powerhouse to watch on the court in her college years. Watching her break records at her school, and seeing her win two championships back to back, was an amazing experience! She was arguably one the best basketball players of her time. She was a hero that young basketball players like me looked up to. I am not into basketball as much as I was years ago, and because of that I hadn’t really been following along as closely. So, one could imagine my shock when I learned that Maya Moore willingly sat out for two seasons of her professional basketball career, after winning two Olympic gold medals and many other awards! This is a woman who lives and breathes basketball, who was also still in her prime! But then I discovered her reason and gained a whole new-found respect for her.

Maya visited the City Correctional Center in Jefferson City, Missouri in 2007. There she met Jonathan Irons. Jonathan is a an African-American man who she believed was wrongfully convicted for a crime.  At 18, Irons was prosecuted for burglary and assault. Even though there was no DNA, footprints, fingerprints, blood or any other evidence to place him at the crime, he was still sentenced to 50 years in prison. Maya believed this to be a blasphemous injustice and in 2019, Maya announced her hold on her career to help Jonathan. It took a lot of time but finally in July 2, 2020 Jonathan Irons walked out of prison a free man, and guess who was out there waiting for him…Maya Moore.

Maya has since gone on to become a prominent activist in her community. She even has started a website called Win with Justice. There one can find information on wrongful conviction, current news and legislation, and how people can get involved in their own community. Now, even though she has taken a lot of time off from basketball, and become a huge player on the team of activism, she has not given up on her love for the sport. She claims she is in no way ready for retirement from the WMBA. The Olympic medalist will return to the court.

Maya Moore with Jonathan Irons 

As I said before, young Morgan considered Maya Moore a hero, because of her athleticism and her domination on the court. But adult Morgan considers her a hero because her activism. For her to take two years off from her career and passion, to help Jonathan, is nothing but noble. Using her platform and resource to help a man who was wrongful convicted, and to start a movement to help others like Jonathan, is something I want to see during this time of racial injustices. I hope that she can set an example for many other celebrities who have the platform, income, and resources to help those who need it most.

A Black Female Rapper Is Changing The Narrative

By Skye VanLanduyt

During my last semester at Baker, I discovered Lizzo’s single, “Good As Hell” off her EP, Coconut Oil. I found it catchy, empowering, and fun to listen to during my 7 a.m. workouts. Between studying for exams, writing papers, and enjoying my remaining days as a college student I did not know the song released earlier in 2016, nor did I know her third studio album, Cuz I Love You would release on April 19, 2019.

After graduating from college, a friend asked “have you heard of Lizzo?” I shook my head not realizing she was the mastermind behind “Good As Hell.” It didn’t take long before I found myself falling in love with her spunky vibrato. Lizzo’s songs on her newest album, “Cuz I Love You” do more than promote single-woman hood. Her songs celebrate sexuality, black female power, and body image. In an interview with NPR, she says her intentions for writing this album come from wanting to be “body positive” and “help people find a positive place within themselves.”

I started listening to Lizzo because I liked how catchy and uplifting her lyrics were but now I appreciate her in a different way. Lizzo isn’t just a female rapper who encourages self-love and body-love through her music. On social media, she encourages her fans and followers to be intune with their mental well-being. A lot of young artists, especially in the music industry struggle with opening up to fans about their mental health. I love that Lizzo isn’t afraid to sit down and be emotionally honest. In June, she opened up about her struggle with depression and encouraged fans to start a conversation about coping strategies. This was inspiring, given so many Americans struggle with a mental health disorder. By being honest and willing to have tough conversations, Lizzo is creating a dialogue for men and women of all different backgrounds to unite in pursuit of self-love.

A couple of days ago, she posted a video on Instagram asking her fans, “not to be like her” but to” be like themselves.” I think it is refreshing to see an artist preach what they sing, especially when the message is so positive. I wish more people, including myself discovered Lizzo when her first EP came out in 2016.  I am thankful she is making her voice known in 2019 but it concerns me that it has taken her this long. Sure, we have other artists such as,  Cardi B, Beyoncé,  Camila Cabello, and Rihanna.  All have grown to be successful women in the music industry but there is something different about Lizzo.  She is consciously aware of the struggles she is up against as a black woman and she is not afraid to tear them down.  Her lyric, “I am a queen but I need no crown” is repeated countless times in her albums.  She is ready to break down the medium and encourage women they can love themselves and their bodies no matter what. I hope Lizzo and her music continues to inspire change in the music industry.