Rebecca Davis was born February 8th, 1831 in Delaware…
but was raised in Pennsylvania by her aunt. She later attended the elite West Newton English and Classical School in Massachusetts where she excelled in mathematics.
She then moved to Charlestown, Massachusetts where she married Wyatt Lee. During the next 8 years, Rebecca Lee worked as a nurse until she was accepted into the New England Female Medical College in 1860. It was rare for a black women or man to be admitted to medical schools during that time. Also during that period, medical care for the poor blacks was almost non-existent.
Her husband died in 1863 while she was still in medical school. When the civil war began, Lee was forced to quit her school. She went back to college in 1863 but financial aid was no longer available to her. So for her to complete her education, she won a tuition award from the Wade Scholarship Fund which was established by the Ohio abolitionist Benjamin Wade.
When she graduated in 1864, Rebecca Lee (later Crumpler) was the first African American woman in the United States to earn a Doctor of Medicine degree and the only African American woman to graduate from New England Female Medical College. The school closed in 1873 without graduating another black woman. It merged with Boston University.
Yesterday was her birthday so Happy Birthday Dr. Lee and thank you for paving the way for all the generations that followed.