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Dr Rebecca J. Cole
Rebecca J Cole.jpeg
Born (1846-03-16)March 16, 1846
Died August 14, 1922(1922-08-14) (aged 76)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Nationality American
Alma mater Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania
Known for Second female African American physician
Scientific career
Fields Internal medicine
Institutions New York Infirmary for Women and Children
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Rebecca J. Cole (March 16, 1846 – August 14, 1922) was an American physician, organization founder and social reformer. In 1867, she became the second African-American woman to become a doctor in the United States after Rebecca Lee Crumpler's achievement three years earlier.

Early life and education

Dr Cole was born in Philadelphia on March 16, 1846; the second of five children and throughout her life would overcome racial and gender barriers to medical education by training in all-female institutions run by women who had been part of the first generation of female physicians graduating mid-century. Dr Cole attended high school at the Institute for Colored Youth, where she completed a rigorous curriculum that included Latin, Greek, and mathematics and later graduating in 1863. She then went on to graduate from the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1867, under the supervision of Ann Preston; the first woman dean of the school. The Women’s Medical College was founded by Quaker abolitionists and temperance reformers in 1850 under the name of the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania and was the world’s first medical school for women. Her graduate medical thesis was titled The Eye and Its Appendages. Rebecca's roommates in her senior year were Odelia Blinn and Martha E. Hutchings. Nearly thirty years later Dr. Blinn wrote an article about how crossing the 'color line' in Philadelphia nearly derailed Rebecca's studies at the college and her plans for a medical career.


After her schooling, Dr Cole interned at Elizabeth Blackwell's New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children. In New York, Dr Cole was assigned the task of going into tenements to teach prenatal care and hygiene to women. Cole was a pioneer in providing these impoverished women and children access to medical care. Cole went on to practice in South Carolina, then returned to Philadelphia, and in 1873 opened a Women's Directory Center with Charlotte Abbey that provided medical and legal services to destitute women and children. In January 1899, she was appointed superintendent of a home, run by the Association for the Relief of Destitute Colored Women and Children in Washington, D.C.. The annual report for that year stated that she possessed "all the qualities essential to such a position-ability, energy, experience, tact." A subsequent report noted that:

Dr Cole herself has more than fulfilled the expectations of her friends. With a clear and comprehensive view of her whole field of action, she has carried out her plans with the good sense and vigor which are a part of her character, while her cheerful optimism, her determination to see the best in every situation and in every individual, have created around her an atmosphere of sunshine that adds to the happiness and well being of every member of the large family.

Dr Cole practiced medicine for fifty years, unfortunately only few records survived and few photos of her have survived. She died in 1922 and is buried at Eden Cemetery in Collingdale, Pennsylvania.

In 2015, Dr Cole was chosen as an Innovators Walk of Fame honoree by the University City Science Center, Philadelphia.

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