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African American Medical Pioneers: Rebecca Lee Crumpler (1833-?)

Rebecca Lee CrumplerRebecca Crumpler devoted her life to improving health in the black community through research and clinical work. After a full career of helping patients, she published a book designed to help a broader audience of women and children.

Crumpler was born in 1833 and raised by an aunt in Pennsylvania. That aunt, who attended to the health needs of the people near her, was her niece's first inspiration. In the 1850s, Crumpler worked as a nurse in Massachusetts, where her dedication gained her notice from her supervisors. With their recommendations, she entered the New England Female Medical College in Boston (which later merged with Boston University's medical school). On graduation day in 1864, Crumpler received a Doctress of Medicine degree.

Dr. Crumpler started a practice as a general practitioner serving many Boston families. When the Civil War ended the following year, she understood the urgent need for medical care among newly freed slaves in the South, and relocated her medical practice to Richmond, Virginia. There her reputation for excellent care and hard work spread quickly. She worked in Richmond's black community for many years before returning to Boston with her husband, Dr. Arthur Crumpler.

Back in Boston, Crumpler established a practice at 67 Joy Street dedicated to serving women and children, especially through nutrition and preventative medicine. At that time she also began reviewing her journals and research. Hoping to educate the public about health, she wrote a book about her experience. In 1883 a Boston publisher, Cushman, Keating & Company, published her two-volume work, A Book of Medical Discourses. It offered women a reference on how to provide medical care for themselves and their children.

Dr. Crumpler inspired many as a model for breaking barriers, and for dedicating oneself to improving the lives of others.

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