Episode Description

Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, born in 1831, was the first African American female medical doctor in the U.S. and is considered the first Black person to publish a medical book. In it, Dr. Crumpler lays out best practices for good health with a focus on women and children. She writes that she was inspired by her aunt, a community healer and midwife, who raised her in Pennsylvania. In 1864, during the Civil War, Rebecca graduated from the New England Female Medical College, the world’s first medical school for women and the founding institution of what is now the Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine. The following year, in the chaotic aftermath of the Civil War, she traveled to Virginia to treat refugees. Many women and children, suddenly freed from bondage, were dying. She worked to dispel the myth that recently freed slaves were spreading disease, rightly pointing instead to poor living conditions. There are no known photos of Rebecca Crumpler, but a Boston newspaper article describes her in her 60s as “tall and straight, with light brown skin and gray hair”. Rebecca Crumpler was ahead of her time, promoting preventive medicine, and she paved the way for women of color in the field of public health.

Crumpler's 67 Joy St home on Beacon Hill
Plaque outside of Crumpler's Joy St home



  • Katie Hafner
  • Dominique Janee


  • Dominique Janee (reporter & producer), is a graduate of Spelman College and holds a Podcasting Certificate from the UC Berkeley Advanced Media Institute. She joined Lost Women of Science in January of 2022. 
  • Barbara Howard (managing senior producer), has long worked at Boston’s NPR stations, Anchoring WGBH’s “All Things Considered”, and winning WBUR’s first Peabody Award. Her long-form reporting has been included in “The Best of NPR”.


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