Dr Susan McKinney Steward


Dr Susan McKinney Steward is reputedly the first Black woman to formally enter the medical profession and to gain recognizable success. Although she was confronted with two barriers – being Black and a woman – this high self-motivated and determined woman overcame both successfully. She graduated from the New York Medical School for Women and Children as valedictorian of her class in 1870.

Dr Steward was born Susan Smith in Brooklyn, New York, in 1848. She later married William G McKinney, and bore a son and a daughter. After the death of her husband in 1894, she became an organist and choirmaster at the Bridge Street African Methodist Church and a board member of the Brooklyn Home for Aged Coloured People. An avid student of the history and progress of women in medicine, she was one of the founders of the Women’s Royal Union of New York and Brooklyn. She also served as an active member of the Kings County Homeopathic Society.

She did her postgraduate work at Long Island College Hospital and was further distinguished as being the only female in her graduating class. Early in her career, she practiced “homeopathy at a hospital and dispensary. During her association with the hospital, the dispensary practice grew in size and had to be moved to larger quarters. It was later renamed the Memorial Hospital for Women & Children. Dr Steward also had a successful private practice in Brooklyn for more than 20 years, and she eventually opened a second office in Manhattan. Later, after the death of her first husband, she married the Reverend T G Steward, a US Army chaplain and instructor at Wilberforce University. Shortly thereafter, she left Brooklyn and made her home in Wilberforce, Ohio, where she practiced for many years. She died in 1918.