#WiSW7: Susan McKinney-Steward

(March 1847 – March 17, 1918)

Susan Maria McKinney Steward was an accomplished American physician and author.

Susan McKinney-Steward was the first woman to earn a medical degree in New York State and the third black woman in the United States. McKinney-Steward made it the medical schools and graduated all by herself although her father was a wealthy pig farmer and he could have afforded to pay her bills throughout her time in college.

Terrified by her brother’s death in the Civil War and a cholera epidemic, she found her calling in medicine in 1866. She used her gift as a singer to foot the bill to actualize her dream as a medical doctor by offering singing lessons. She attended the New York Medical College for Women and graduated as valedictorian in 1869.

McKinney-Steward’s medical career focused on prenatal care and childhood disease. She ran her practice in Brooklyn and co-founded the Brooklyn Women’s Homeopathic Hospital and Dispensary from 1870 to 1895. She also sat on the board of and practiced medicine at the Brooklyn Home for Aged Colored People.

Her sister Sarah J. Garnet was the first African-American female school principal in the New York City public school system.

In 1911 she attended the Universal Race Congress in London, where she delivered a paper entitled “Colored American Women”. She died at Wilberforce University. She was interred at Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York.

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