Rebecca Lee Crumpler

Quick Look At Crumpler

Rebecca Lee Crumpler was known as the first African American woman to earn a medical degree in the U.S., and she spent much of her career providing medical services to formerly enslaved people after the Civil War.

Early Life

Rebecca Lee Crumpler was born Rebecca Davis, February 8, 1831, in Delaware. She grew up in Pennsylvania where she was raised by her aunt, who cared for sick neighbors. Her early exposure to nursing influenced her career. In 1852, Crumpler moved to Massachusetts, where she worked as a nurse. Later that year, she married Wyatt Lee, who would later pass away in 1863.

College Education

Crumpler was accepted into New England Female Medical College (NEFMC) in 1860. This was special because few schools accepted African Americans during this time due to racial discrimination. NEFMC was the first school in America to train women hoping to become doctors. In 1864, Crumpler graduated from NEFMC, making history by becoming the first certified Black female doctor in America. Around the time of her graduation, she remarried Arthur Crumpler. NEFMC closed in 1873, and Crumpler was the only Black person to ever graduate from this school.


After graduating, Crumpler began to practice in Boston, but she was drawn to Richmond, Virginia after the Civil War. Crumpler and her husband moved to Richmond, where she collaborated with missionary groups like Freedman's Bureau to help care for freed African Americans. She mostly cared for very poor people who wouldn't have had access to medical care if it weren't for her. In 1869, Crumpler moved back to Boston, where she had her first and only child, Lizzie Sinclair Crumpler. In Boston, she lived in a predominantly Black neighborhood, and she treated patients in her home, even when they didn't have enough money to pay for medical care. Crumpler wrote a book titled, "A Book of Medical Discourses," which was full of advice for other physicians, and people in the medical field. She passed away on March 9, 1895.

Rebecca Lee Crumpler was an extraordinary physician who faced discrimination daily but still overcame her challenges to help others. Without her, thousands of people wouldn't have received the medical care that they needed. She was an inspiration and a motivation for others who doubt their ability to do things.