When no hospital in the Columbia, S.C., area would allow an African-American physician and surgeon to practice, Matilda Arabella Evans, M.D., decided to open her own. After initially caring for her patients in her home, she founded the Taylor Lane Hospital — the first black hospital in Columbia. Evans not only treated patients and performed surgery, she trained nurses and other African Americans who hoped to become physicians.
A graduate of the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (WMCP) in 1897, Evans was the first African-American woman licensed to practice medicine in South Carolina. An obstetrician, gynecologist and surgeon popular with both black and white patients, Evans services were sorely needed at a time when all women feared death from childbirth, but black women died at a rate roughly double that of white women.
Acutely aware of the extremely poor level of medical care most blacks received, Evans was also an activist who worked tirelessly to educate people about the need for preventive medicine and better care in black communities.
Her research and reporting on the health of black children in Columbia led to a permanent health examination program within the South Carolina public school system. She also founded the Columbia Clinic Association to help educate families and the Negro Health Association of South Carolina, to help blacks learn more about how to stay healthy and care for themselves and their children.
When she was not teaching or practicing medicine, Evans ran her own farm and published a local newspaper, The Negro Health Journal of South Carolina. Today, she is still an inspiration to African Americans pursuing careers in medicine.