Historic metropolis marker within the works for Meharry’s first feminine college member

By Meharry Medical School

The Metropolitan Historic Fee of Nashville and Davidson County has permitted the erection of a historic marker as a memorial for Dr. Josie E. Wells—one in every of three feminine 1904 graduates of Meharry Medical School, its first feminine college member and Meharry President Dr. George W. Hubbard’s administrative proper hand.

In collaboration with President James E.Okay. Hildreth, Meharry library director Sandra Parham submitted the applying for the marker to the fee in October 2021 after having realized of Wells’ accomplishments via working with researcher Kristi Farrow within the library’s archival supplies.

The Fee’s Historic Marker Program Pointers stipulate metropolis historic markers will probably be thought of solely when the proposed occasion, individual, construction or place’s historic significance is proved to be or to have taken place 50 or extra years in the past.

Parham, library and archives director since January 2020, stated she sees the addition of a historic marker on campus as a chance not solely to formally memorialize Wells’ important contributions but in addition to share with the town the wealthy historical past and legacy Meharrians comparable to Wells have contributed to the Nashville neighborhood.

“Multiple-half of the educated coloured physicians within the Southern states had been graduates of Meharry Medical School, however of the various graduates of the period, few had been ladies,” Parham stated. “How household, cash, educational or societal pressures might have impacted the ladies medical college students, one can solely think about, however the alternatives for them had been few and the constraints towards their success, highly effective.

“Gender limitations that proscribed ladies’s life {and professional} potentialities had been institutionalized nationwide, and extra so for Black ladies. Wells’ accomplishment of changing into a physician in 1904, and later a hospital administrator, is all of the extra noteworthy.”

In line with the rules, as soon as the Fee approves the casting of a historic marker, it can take roughly three months to see the marker erected on its permitted website on the former campus hospital whose façade nonetheless bears his title. The newly permitted marker—which is able to be a part of these of noteworthy Meharrians Hulda Margaret Lyttle and Donley Harold Turpin on campus—will embody textual content forged on one aspect and a metallic {photograph} of Wells with a caption forged on its different aspect.

Parham labored with the Fee’s historic preservationist, Jessica Reeves, to craft the marker’s wording, which begins with the title, “Dr. Josie Wells, 1876-1921,” and can learn, “Josie E. Wells got here to Nashville in 1900 to attend Meharry Medical School of Walden School. One among three ladies graduates in 1904, she specialised in caring for ladies and kids. She held free clinics for needy households, no matter race. Wells was the campus doctor at Fisk College, the primary lady on the Meharry college, was instrumental in fundraising for Hubbard Hospital and have become hospital superintendent in 1912.”

The caption beneath Wells’ {photograph}, on the marker’s reverse aspect, will learn, “Dr. Josie Wells in her commencement regalia, 1904. Along with her medical work, Wells was extensively concerned in civic neighborhood work as a part of the manager committee of the Coloured Unit of the Ladies’s Council of Protection throughout World Conflict I and in supporting lady suffrage. She died in 1921 at age 44, and is buried at Nashville’s Greenwood Cemetery.”

The Remainder of the Story…In 1904, three ladies, together with Wells, graduated as medical doctors.

“Remarkably, by the start of 1900 there have been at all times at the very least 4 ladies in Meharry’s graduating lessons throughout its then three departments, medical, dental and pharmaceutical,” Parham stated.

Born in 1876 in Holly Springs, Miss., to Berry and Eliza English, Josephine “Josie” English had a modest however snug childhood. Though her dad and mom had been enslaved earlier than the Civil Conflict, Wells’ father’s carpentry commerce earned the household a gentle revenue.

Her household owned their very own residence, and the kids within the household had been afforded school training. Josie labored early in her life as a nurse and married George Wells, a professor at Rust School in Holly Springs. George Wells handed away quickly after the beginning of the couple’s daughter, Alma, leaving Josie to supply for a kid as a single guardian.

Looking for a chance past Mississippi, Josie Wells moved with Alma to San Antonio, Texas, to guide a nursing program on the hospital of Dr. G.J. Starnes, an 1884 graduate of Meharry Medical School.

“Presumably it was Dr. Starnes who noticed Wells’ potential, inspired her to additional her training to develop into a physician herself, and beneficial her to Meharry,” stated Parham, including that Wells started her research within the four-year medical program at Meharry in 1900, working as a nurse whereas going to highschool to supply for her daughter.

When Wells graduated along with her medical diploma in 1904, she practiced medication in Nashville, specializing in caring for ladies and kids. She held a free clinic for needy households as soon as per week and likewise was the campus doctor at Fisk College, particularly serving the ladies college students of Fisk.

She taught at Meharry, was the primary lady member of the Meharry college and lectured and fundraised to construct Hubbard Hospital for Meharry. Her solely sister, Mary English, additionally was a major donor to the fundraising actions of Hubbard Hospital.

Wells additionally was extensively concerned in civic neighborhood work as a part of the manager committee of the Coloured Unit of the Ladies’s Council of Protection throughout World Conflict I and in supporting lady suffrage.

“Elevating cash for the brand new Hubbard Hospital was an enormous endeavor, wherein Wells was materially concerned,” Parham stated. “When the hospital opened in 1910, Wells was its efficient head, reporting to Hubbard, the medical college president and formal hospital superintendent. Though Wells turned full superintendent in time, from the very starting she, a Black lady, ‘had cost’ of the hospital.”

Wells labored straight with Hubbard, who was white, as had been all the authentic Meharry college of the late 1800s.

“Wells’ place inside Meharry was a novel skilled path. She confronted many difficulties to beat as a lady administrator in a male-controlled establishment, educating her daughter and likewise caring for and educating many nieces and nephews who had develop into a part of her family in Nashville,” Parham stated.

Josie Wells’ legacy continues to provide again to her beloved Meharry within the type of pupil help via the John T. Givens Scholarship, which is awarded yearly to a pupil within the College of Drugs. Givens was the husband of Wells’ solely daughter, Alma Wells Givens.

Josie Wells died simply over 100 years in the past, on March 20, 1921, and was laid to relaxation at Nashville’s legendary Greenwood Cemetery.


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