Cover Reveals! Sex and the City & America’s Forgotten Suffragists

I am so excited to show you the covers of my next two books, which are also my first traditionally published books. You can pre-order both in hardback now; e-book is coming soon and paperback will be out about a year after the initial publication.

Coming November 15!

An insightful look at the cultural impact of the television phenomenon Sex and the City

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, one word was on everyone’s lips: sex. Sex and the City had taken the United States, and the world, by storm. Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha influenced how a generation of women think, practice, and talk about sex, allowing them to embrace their sexual desires publicly and unlocking the idea of women as sexual beings on par with men.

In Sex and the City: A Cultural History, Nicole Evelina provides a fascinating, in-depth look at the show’s characters, their relationships, and the issues the show confronted. From sexuality and feminism to friendship and motherhood, Evelina reveals how the series impacted viewers in the 1990s, as well as what still resonates today and what has glaringly not kept up with the times. The world has changed dramatically since the show originally aired, and Evelina examines how recent social movements have served to highlight the show’s lack of diversity and throw some of its storylines into a less than favorable light.

While Sex and the City had problematic issues, it also changed the world’s perception of single women, emphasized the power of female friendship, built brands, and influenced fashion. This book looks at it all, from the pilot episode to the spinoff movies, prequel, and reboot that together have built an enduring legacy for a new generation of women.

Pre-order hardback here:

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This book is part of Rowman & Littlefield’s Cultural History of Television series:

 

Coming March 1, 2023!

Missouri’s Virginia Minor forever changed the direction of Women’s Rights–not Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, Carrie Chapman Catt, or any of the other so-called “marquee names” of the suffrage movement–when she and her husband, Francis, argued Minor v Happersett in 1875. Despite the negative ruling, this landmark case brought the right to vote for women to the U.S. Supreme Court for the first and only time in the seventy-two year fight for women’s suffrage in the United States.

America’s Forgotten Suffragists: Virginia and Francis Minor is the first biography of these activists who had a profound impact on the suffrage movement but have largely been forgotten by history. Virginia and Francis were unique for their time in being jointly dedicated to the cause of female enfranchisement. Unlike the brief profiles available now, this book will paint a full picture of their lives, depicting their youth, married life, and their highly-lauded civilian work during the Civil War. Their early suffrage work and famous Supreme Court case will be covered in depth, along with an exploration of how it actually helped the suffrage movement by giving it a unifying direction, despite the court delivering a negative verdict. This biography will also cover Virginia and Francis’ continued fight for women’s suffrage after the case, including Virginia’s tax revolts, writings, and campaigning for the franchise in Nebraska.

Preorder hardback here:

 

More information on the Minors and additional insights that didn’t make it into the book are available at the Virginia and Francis Minor Memorial Institute.

Fearless Females: Estelle Massey Osborne

In honor of Nurses Week (May 6-12), this month we’ll learn the amazing story of Estelle Massey Osborne, who fought against racial discrimination in nursing. The Rory Meyers College of Nursing at NYU says of her: “Few Americans helped to change the face of nursing in the 20th-century more than Estelle Massey Osborne.”

Estelle Massey was born on May 3, 1901, to Hall and Bettye Estelle Massey in Palestine, Texas. Her parents were uneducated and worked menial jobs, but they wanted a better life for their children so they saved up and managed to send all 11 of them to college.

Estelle received her teaching certification from Prairie View State Normal and Industrial College (now Prairie View A&M University). She taught for a while, but after being badly injured in a violent incident at a school where she was teaching, she decided to become a nurse. Estelle joined the first nursing class of St. Louis City Hospital #2 (later Homer G. Phillips Hospital), where she developed a passion for obstetrics. She graduated in 1923 and worked there as head nurse for three years.

In 1926 or 1927 she moved to New York City to teach at the Lincoln School of Nursing and the Harlem Hospital School of Nursing, where she was the first Black instructor. She attended summer sessions at Teachers College of Columbia University. Then, in 1928, she received a scholarship from the Julius Rosenwald Fund—the first Black nurse ever awarded one—which enabled her to study full time. She received a bachelor’s degree in 1930, and a master’s in nursing education in 1931, the first Black nurse to do so.

The following year, she married Dr. Bedford N. Riddle, but they later divorced. In 1934 she worked as a researcher for the Rosenwald Fund, studying rural life in the deep South and trying to determine how to better enable people there to access health care services. Later the same year, Estelle became president of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses where she created strong relationships with the American Nurses Association (ANA), National League for Nursing, and National Organization for Public Health Nursing. With the bonds she formed, Estelle successfully lobbied to get these organizations to allow Black nurses and worked to improve post-graduation opportunities for Black nurses. By the time she left five years later, the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses’ membership had increased five-fold to nearly 950 nurses.

In 1940, Estelle returned to St. Louis and the Homer G. Phillips Hospital to become its first Black female director of nursing. When the U.S. entered WWII, she took up the cause, even though the Army and Navy both banned Black nurses. In 1943 she was appointed as a consultant to the National Nursing Council for War Service, where she acted as a liaison to nursing schools by recruiting desperately-needed student and graduate nurses. She also used this position to change discriminatory policies at nursing schools and in the military. Within two years, thanks to Estelle’s efforts, 20 more nursing schools admitted Black students, the Cadet Nurse Corps had inducted 2,000 Black members, and the Army and Navy both welcomed Black nurses.

In 1945, Estelle became the first Black instructor at New York University’s Department of Nursing Education. The following year, she received the Mary Mahoney Award from the ANA for her efforts to help Black nurses become integrated within the broader nursing community. In 1947, she married again, this time to Herman Osborne.

In addition to teaching nursing as the first Black faculty member at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing, she led many nursing associations, trying to increase Black membership and bridge the divide between white and Black associations. In 1948, she became the first Black member of the ANA board, where she served as a delegate to the International Council of Nurses. Estelle was also a member of the National Urban League, first vice-president of the National Council of Negro Women, and an honorary member of Chi Eta Phi Sorority and the American Academy of Nursing.

In 1954 she became Associate Professor of Nursing Education at the University of Maryland and five years later, the NYU Department of Nursing named Estelle “Nurse of the Year.” In 1966, she left her executive role at the National League for Nursing to retire.

Estelle died on December 12, 1981, at the age of 80. In 1984, the ANA inducted her into their Hall of Fame. Two scholarships bearing her name are given out annually by NYU Meyers and the Nurses Educational Fund.

Fearless Females: Susan Elizabeth Tracy and Eleanor Clark

Eleanor Clark Slagle

Well, I totally forgot to post this in April. At least I’m only two days late…

April is National Occupational Therapy Month.

There is an old saying that goes something like, “if you want something done right, ask a woman.” That is exactly how occupational therapy (OT) got its start. In the early 1900s, two women, nurse Susan Elizabeth Tracy and social worker Eleanor Clark Slagle changed how OT would be viewed forever.

OT has its roots in treating mental illness in the 18th and 19th centuries. It became a new field of study under Dr. Benjamin Rush of Baltimore around the turn of the 20th century, as he explored how doing occupational activities might help patients heal by keeping them busy. In 1917 he co-founded the National Society for the Promotion of Occupational Therapy and authored one of the first textbooks on the subject Occupational Therapy: A Manual for Nurses in 1918. Because of this, he is often called “the father of occupational therapy.”

However, two women actually beat him to the punch.

Susan E. Tracy
Susan E. Tracy actually wrote the first American book on OT, Studies in Invalid Occupations, in 1910, eight years before Dr. Rush, and is credited with performing the “first systemic studies on occupational therapy.”

Little is known about her life and no photos of her exist. She was born in 1864 or 1878 to a family of teachers. She studied nursing in Massachusetts and after graduation in 1898, she went to work as a nurse at Presbyterian Hospital in Chicago, where she established an OT department and began teaching OT to nurses. In 1906, she gave a series of lectures at the Adams-Nervine Asylum in Boston. Sometime before 1912, she became an administrator at a nursing school. In 1912, she opened an OT practice, where she also taught nurses and focused on using OT to help disabled soldiers wounded in WWI. Elizabeth is recognized as one of the founders of The American Occupational Therapy Association. She died in 1928 in Massachusetts.

Eleanor Clark Slagle
Eleanor May Clark was born on October 13, 1870, to William John and Emeline Clark in Hobart, New York. Little is known of her childhood other than she went by the name Ella May Clark. She married Robert E. Slagle in Chicago, but the two later divorced.

Her education is also fuzzy. Eleanor attended Claverack College in Columbia City, New York, but it is unclear if she graduated or left school to get married. By her late 30s, she worked with the mentally ill at Hull House in Chicago. In 1911, she attended a course at the UC Chicago School for Civics and Philanthropy that “taught occupations and amusements to staff working at state institutions.” From 1912-1914, she was director of the department of occupational therapy at the Phipps Psychiatric Clinic at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1914, Eleanor resigned and returned to Chicago, where she gave lectures at the Chicago School for Civics and Philanthropy and taught OT at Hull House. In 1915, she created the first organized OT training program at the Henry B. Favill School of Occupations in Chicago which helped the emerging field become recognized as legitimate by the medical profession.

In 1917, Eleanor became general superintendent of occupational therapy for all of the Illinois state hospitals and was a founding member of the National Society for the Promotion of Occupational Therapy. She was part of this organization until 1937, serving as secretary-treasurer, vice president and president (1919-1920) and founding its headquarters in New York City in 1922.

Eleanor spent the next 20 years promoting OT as director at the New York State Department of Mental Hygiene. Encyclopedia Britannica credits her with “demonstrat[ing] the first large-scale occupational therapy program for a state hospital system and also found[ing] an annual training institute for state therapists that became a model for similar programs throughout the United States.” During her career, she trained over 4,000 nurses in OT.

Eleanor died of heart issues on September 18, 1942, in New York and is rightfully called “the mother of occupational therapy,” standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Dr. Benjamin Rush.

Updates on 2022/2023 Publications and Other Things

When I started this blog, my intent was to trace the publication process of books and my experience as an author. I think I’ve accomplished that on the self-pub side, so now as my first traditionally published books head to press, I want to bring you along on that journey as well. Here’s what is going on:

Sex and the City: A Cultural History

  • Has a publication date: November 15, 2022 (This could change. There is a national paper shortage that is wreaking havoc on publication schedules for books large and small across the country.)
  • Has been through two rounds of edits and photos are gathered.
  • I’ve seen the cover. And I love it! Will share as soon as it is finalized.
  • The book is now in production. I’m waiting to hear from that department on the rest of the schedule.

America’s Forgotten Suffragists: Virginia and Francis Minor

  • Has a publication date: March 1, 2023.
  • Has been through one round of edits and I should get the second one any day now.
  • Photos are gathered.
  • We’ve started talking about the cover. It is being designed.

League of Women Voters Book

  • This one works differently because the League is contracting for the publishing, not me. They are working on that.
  • We are still editing.
  • Tentative publication date: August 26, 2022.

Other Updates

  • I’ve been asked to me a mentor for the Launchpad Prose Competition in the next cycle. I’m really excited! You may remember that I was in the Top 10 in that competition a few years ago.
  • I’m also serving as Novel Writing Expert for the National Association of Writers and Editors for the next three years.
  • The Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy and America’s Forgotten Suffragists are finalists in their categories (Chaucer Early Historical Fiction-Best Series and Nellie Bly Award for Investigative Journalism, respectively) at the Chanticleer Book Awards. Winners will be announced at the conference in June. I’m still waiting to hear if Consequences is advancing in the novella category.

New Events

And I’m working on my next historical fiction and my next biography, as well as the non-fiction book that is due in January.

Women’s History Month: Meditations on Women and War

image purchased from Adobe Stock

Happy Women’s History Month, everyone!

Here in the U.S. I am blessed to be celebrating this month in peace, but I have been thinking a lot about the women of Ukraine, who are once again bravely defending their homes, some for the second or third time in their lives. From members of Parliament to citizens from the countryside, they are joining together in Resistance.

When we think about war, it is usually the soldiers on the battlefield or the government leaders (mostly men) who come to mind. But for all of known history, women have been fighting in their own ways.  Today, as we kick off this important month, I want to remember all the women, past and present, who have:

  • Like Boudicca, led revolts when their homes were invaded.
  • Like Boudicca’s daughters, survived rape and other forms of abuse at enemy hands.
  • Like Catherine Van Rensselaer and Peggy Schuyler, burned their own crops so the enemy wouldn’t have anything to eat.
  • Like Hypatia, defended the intellectual and cultural centers of their cities.
  • Like Irena Sendler, risked their lives to save children from death at enemy hands.
  • Like Virginia Minor, supplied hospitals with food and comforted the sick and dying.
  • Like Catherine McAuley and her Sisters of Mercy, walked bravely onto the front lines and into enemy territory to nurse the wounded and dying on both sides.
  • Like Catherine Jarrige and the martyrs of Compiegne, stayed true to their faith and values, even in the face of death.
  • Like Elise Rivet, gave their lives in exchange for those of the innocent.
  • Like Stanislawa Leszczyńska, aided women in their hour of need and brought new life into the world amid death and darkness.
  • Like Hedy Lamarr, used their intelligence to invent revolutionary technology in times of war.
  • Like Shaista Suhrawardy Ikramullah and Eleanor Roosevelt, used their diplomatic skills to try and broker peace.
  • Like Deborah Sampson, hid their sex in order to fight in their army.
  • Like Naomi Parker Fraley, the real Rosie the Riveter, worked in factories, producing the items men needed to fight.

And the millions of unnamed, ordinary women who have:

  • Taken up arms (legally or not) to defend her homes, families, and homelands.
  • Governed or run their lands while men were away at war.
  • Lost children, husbands, fathers, brothers and fellow women to war.
  • Lost their lives to bombings, gunfire and other violence.
  • Sewed clothing, made bandages and cooked food for those who would fight.
  • Raised money to aid their cause.
  • Prayed for peace while bombs fell around them and gunfire blared.

We salute you and thank you for all you have done. May we learn from your strength, tenacity and courage. And may your efforts never be forgotten.

If you are the praying kind, please do so for the women of Ukraine and all who face similar circumstances around the world.

Fearless Females: Dr. Gladys West

Next time you fire up Google Maps or ask your GPS how to get somewhere, say a word of thanks to Dr. Gladys West. Without her, we’d all still be using paper maps to find our way around.

Gladys Brown was born in Sutherland, Virginia, in 1930 to Nolan and Macy Brown, field and tobacco factory workers in a rural town populated mostly by sharecroppers. From an early age she understood that if she wanted to do more than work the land for the rest of her life, she’d have to study hard in school. She attended a small red, one-room school house where seven years of Black students were all taught together. She quickly showed unusual aptitude and her parents, wanting a better life for her, began saving money to send her to college.

But as happens to so many people, unexpected bills kept depleting their savings and Gladys quickly realized she would have to pay her own way. Like her parents, she tried to save, but it was slow going. Luckily, the state of Virginia announced plans to give college scholarships to the two top students from her year. Gladys buckled down and she succeeded in becoming Valedictorian of her high school class and earning one of the two full scholarships.

She chose to attend Virginia State College (now University), a historically Black university and majored in math because it was a respectable subject. To pay for room and board (which the scholarship didn’t cover), she took a part time job babysitting for one of her math teachers. In 1952, she graduated with her bachelor’s in mathematics and began teaching. A few years later, Gladys attended Virginia State, where she earned a master’s in mathematics in 1955.

After graduation, she was offered a job as a computer programmer and coder at Naval Proving Ground (now Naval Surface Warfare Center) in Dahlgren, Virginia, in 1956. According to The Guardian, “this made her only the second Black woman to be hired to work as a programmer at the base. And she was one of only four Black employees.” This was during the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement, and while she and her soon-to-be husband Ira West (they married in 1957) kept an eye on the goings on, they were barred from participating due to their government work.

So, just like in school, Gladys decided to form her own kind of rebellion by being the best worker she could and showing what Black people are capable of. One of her first major projects was the Naval Ordinance Research Calculator, an award-winning program using hundreds of hours of computer calculations, which often had to be double-checked for errors by hand, to calculate the regularity of Pluto’s motion relative to Neptune. Gladys quickly rose through the ranks, receiving commendations for her hard work and becoming project manager for the Seasat radar altimetry project, the first satellite that could monitor the oceans. At the same time, she took night classes and earned her master’s in public administration from the University of Oklahoma in 1973.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, from this “work on Seasat came GEOSAT, a satellite programmed to create computer models of Earth’s surface. By teaching a computer to account for gravity, tides, and other forces that act on Earth’s surface, West and her team created a program that could precisely calculate the orbits of satellites.” This laid the groundwork for the development of the Global Positioning System (GPS). Because of her skill in calculating complex mathematical equations, she also worked on other measurements that contributed to the accuracy of GPS.

In 1998 at age 68, Gladys was contemplating retirement when a sudden stroke forced her to stop working. However, she didn’t let that get in the way of her studies for her PhD in public administration and policy affairs, which she was awarded by Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 2000 at the age of 70. Dr. West, now 91, is still alive today and participates in activities at the Dahlgren Protestant Chapel, with Gideons International and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and along with her husband, regularly mentors young people. In 2020, Dr. West released her memoir, “It Began with A Dream.”

Her story may have gone unknown if it wasn’t for a short biography she sent to her former sorority and a 2018 Associated Press profile, which kicked off interview requests from around the world. That same year, Gladys was inducted into the U.S. Air Force Hall of Fame, the only Black woman to be so honored. She has also been inducted into the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame, named one of the top 100 Women by the British Broadcasting Corporation, was a Dominion Energy Strong Men & Women recipient and has had a Senate Resolution honoring her accomplishments.

Fearless Females: Mary Katherine Goddard

Did you know that a woman signed the Declaration of Independence? Yes, you read that right. Mary Katherine Goddard’s name appears beneath those of our Founding Fathers.


Mary Katherine was born in New London, Connecticut, on June 16, 1738, to Dr. Giles Goddard, a physician and postmaster, and Sarah Updike Goddard. Mary Katherine was one of only two of their four children to live to adulthood. (No photos of her remain, but there is one that is often wrongly identified as her.)

Her mother tutored her in reading and math and then she attended New London’s public school, which taught girls for one hour a day when the boys’ lessons were over. There she learned Latin, French and science.

In 1755, Giles Goddard fell ill and was too sick to work, so her brother, William (then 15), went to New Haven to serve as a printer’s apprentice. Seven years later, Giles died and Mary Kathrine and her mother joined William in New Haven, where he owned a printing shop. Not long after, they founded Rhode Island’s first newspaper, the Providence Gazette.

William, always seeking a new adventure, moved from Providence to Philadelphia to Baltimore—starting newspapers in each city and leaving his mother and sister in charge each time he moved on. In 1768, Mary Katherine moved to Philadelphia with her mother. Two years later, Sarah died and William, who was in a fight with his financial partners, gave the Pennsylvania Chronicle to her. It was one of the largest printing shops in the colonies.

From 1771 – 1775, while William languished in debtor’s prison, Mary Katherine kept his businesses afloat. As he had done so many times before, in February 1774, William gave Mary Katherine control of the Maryland Journal, Baltimore’s first newspaper. William then concentrated his efforts on building a private postal service (one untouched by British rule that later became the U.S. Postal Service) and the masthead of the Maryland Journal was quietly changed to read “Published by M. K. Goddard.”

This was on the eve of the Revolution. By June 1774, most of the news on her front page was of Britain’s blockade of Boston Harbor. From then on, Mary Katherine’s paper became a tool of the Revolution, publishing Thomas Payne’s Common Sense in two parts, reporting on the first battles of the war and encouraging women to boycott British goods by growing their own flax and wool for clothing.

In July 1775, the Continental Congress approved William Goddard’s postal system and three months later named Mary Katherine Baltimore’s postmaster. This made her, in the words of the National Parks Service, “the first postmaster of Baltimore, the first female postmaster in the colonies, and eventually the first female postmaster in the United States.” According to the Smithsonian, it also “likely made her the United States’ only female employee when the nation was born in July 1776.”

Already familiar with her work and convened only blocks from her shop, Congress asked Mary Katherine to print the second version of the United States Declaration of Independence on Jan. 18, 1777, the first to bear the names of the signatories. At the bottom, it reads: “Baltimore, in Maryland; Printed by Mary Katherine Goddard.” According to the National Park Service, by using her full name instead of M.K. Goddard as she had on her newspapers, she “risked her life and her livelihood” in the event that the British government decided to charge her with treason.

Mary Katherine so excelled in her work that by 1779, the Maryland Journal had “as extensive a circulation as any newspaper in the United States.” Nonetheless, in 1784, William fired Mary Katherine from the Maryland Journal and took over as publisher. The reason is unknown, but it could have something to do with an incident years before when she refused to give up the name of a source for a controversial newspaper story and told the inquirers to talk to her brother, who was nearly banished from the United States because of it. Whatever the cause, the siblings never spoke again.

Mary Katherine remained Baltimore’s postmaster until October 1789 when newly appointed postmaster general Samuel Osgood replaced her with John White of Annapolis. The move was likely done for political reasons, as White was friends with Osgood, but most people took it as a sign of sexism. The official story was that because “supervision of nearby post offices was being added to the job description, more travelling might be necessary than a woman could undertake.”

The residents of Baltimore were outraged, with more than 200 demanding her reinstatement. Mary Katherine even wrote to George Washington and the Senate to try to get her job back. Washington refused to do anything and the Senate never responded, so Mary Katherine spent the rest of her life running a dry goods store and a bookstore.

When she died at the age of 78 in 1816, she freed her slave, Belinda Starling, “to recompense the faithful performance of duties to me,” and never having married or had children, left all of her worldly goods to her former slave.

2022 Goals and Word of the Year: Glam

Artist unknown. This image is so beautiful to me. And its also me trying to make COVID go away.

2021 was my busiest year yet on purpose, but I also discovered my limits. That’s why I want 2022 to be all about me–not in a selfish way, but in a self-care, finding balance kind of way.

I really believe that we design our own lives and therefore I want to design a life I love that includes all the things that are important to me.

FIRST: Go away COVID so we can do things in-person again! I want to go back to church, see my friends again, be able to go to the pool, travel, etc.

2022 Word of the Year: Glam (updated 1/25)

I had enticing as my Word of the Year, but the more I sat with that, the more it just didn’t feel right. The word glam has been in my world since December (it all started with this video–I think she is my spirit animal) and I really, really like it. It fits my overall ascetic and how I want to feel and be regarded. And besides, what is more glam than success??!

2022 Goals

Contracted (meaning I’m contractually obligated to do these)

  • Research and write the Fierce Females book (due Jan. 13, 2023)
  • Edit League of Women Voters book (Jan 2022)
  • Edit Minor bio (Jan- March 2002)
  • Edit SATC book (TBD)

Other Writing-Related

  • Project involving Daughter of Destiny (Jan 2022)
  • Write and record Historical Fiction Master Class (Jan 2022)
  • Attend the Chanticleer Conference (April 2022 – I am SO excited to see my friends again! This is such an important vacation for me.)
  • Write more fiction! (I know I won’t get all of these done, but this is my dream list, in no particular order)
    • WWII (halfway done)
    • Isolde (have 50,000 words I cut from Camelot’s Queen. Would love to have this done by April, but I doubt that will happen)
    • Revolutionary War book (started)
    • Female inventor (held over from last year’s goals)
  • A few fun side projects:
    • Family cookbook (using recipes from my parents, grandparents and other relatives)
    • Studying tarot and other metaphysical topics
    • Dream Atelier through the School of Self image
    • Write my own magazine based on the Live Like An Editor workshop from last year
    • Continue writing poetry

Personal

  • Continue taking classes through the School of Self Image. This is doing so much for all areas of my life. It’s cheaper than therapy and makes me very happy.
  • Lose 55 lbs (I’m on a weight control plan with my doctor and am working with a health coach. Focusing on eating well, medicine, mindset, and exercise)
  • Learn to dance – whatever I can do without a partner. I LOVE to dance, need to move, and I want to feel sexy again.
  • Find balance between work and writing; slowly start to shift in the direction of more writing. I have a long-term goal of becoming a full time author.
  • Pay off debt – This is not only smart, but it is necessary for me to be able to move. I have three cities in mind where I’d like to live in the future. I’m not ready to add that to my list yet, but this is a baby step in that direction.
  • Assuming COVID lets us: attend more cultural events like theatre, ballet, opera, symphony, dance, etc.

Fearless Females: Dr. Patricia Bath

This was supposed to be posted in December. Whoopsie.

Dr. Patricia Bath was a woman of many firsts:

  • The first Black person to complete a residency in ophthalmology.
  • The first female faculty member and first female chair in the Department of Ophthalmology at UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute.
  • The first Black female doctor to receive a medical patent.
  • Founder of the field of “community ophthalmology.”

Born in Harlem, New York, on Nov. 4, 1942, there was little about Patricia Bath’s early life to portend her future greatness. Her father, Rupert, was an immigrant from Trinidad and the first Black subway motorman in New York City, and her mother, Gladys, who was descendant from both the Cherokee Tribe and African slaves, was a domestic worker.

Despite their humble circumstances, the Baths encouraged their daughter’s natural curiosity and intelligence, which later proved to be early signs of genius. When, inspired by newspaper articles on Dr. Albert Schweitzer’s work with lepers in Africa, she expressed an interest in medicine, her mother bought her a chemistry set. Her father stoked her wanderlust through stories of his time in the Merchant Marines.

Patricia flourished in school. At the age of 16, she was one of a handful of students to attend a National Science Foundation cancer research workshop. In just three months of study on the effects of streptomycin residue on bacteria, she discovered that cancer was a catabolic disease and tumor growth was a symptom. She also calculated an equation to predict cancer cell growth. Her discoveries were so impressive that Dr. Robert Bernard, head of the program, included her findings in a scientific paper he presented at a conference. As a result, she made the front page of the New York Times and won the Mademoiselle magazine Merit Award in 1960.

Patricia graduated high school in two years and went on to Hunter College, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in 1964. Having decided to devote her life to medicine, she then attended Howard University and she graduated with honors in 1968. After an internship at Harlem Hospital—where she convinced her professors to perform eye surgery on blind patients for free—she completed a fellowship in ophthalmology at Columbia University.

In 1973, Dr. Bath became the first African American to complete a residency in ophthalmology. Now married with a daughter, she completed a second fellowship in corneal transplantation and keratoprosthesis (replacing a human cornea with an artificial one).

By contrasting her patient’s experiences at the mostly Black, lower income Harlem Hospital and the mostly white, wealthier Columbia University, Dr. Bath found that Black people were twice as likely to suffer from blindness than other patients and eight times more likely to develop glaucoma.

Concerned and knowing that many Black people could not afford treatment for such conditions, she developed “community ophthalmology.” This new specialty focused on helping underserved populations by using volunteers trained in basic eye screenings and tests who went to senior centers and daycares to test vision.

Dr. Bath moved to California in 1974 to work as an assistant professor of surgery at both Charles R. Drew University and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). In 1975, she became the first female faculty member in the Department of Ophthalmology at UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute. With this honor came an office “in the basement next to the lab animals,” which she refused to use. “I didn’t say it was racist or sexist,” she explained. “I said it was inappropriate and succeeded in getting acceptable office space. I decided I was just going to [ignore the hate and] do my work.” Much of her research was conducted in places like Berlin, Paris and Loughborough, England, where her race and sex didn’t matter.

In 1976, Dr. Bath co-founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, which established that “eyesight is a basic human right.” Likely remembering her well-traveled father, she lectured and performed surgery all over the world as part of this program, trying to bridge the gap between care provided in industrial and developing nations.

In 1981, she began working on her most well-known invention: the Laserphaco Probe. Using a laser, the device created a less painful and more precise treatment of cataracts that removed the cataract more easily and made it easier to insert a new lens. She received a patent for the device in 1988, becoming the first Black female doctor to receive a U.S. patent for a medical purpose. She also holds patents in Japan, Canada and Europe. Using this device, she was able to help people see who had been blind for more than 30 years.

In 1983, while working on her laser, Dr. Bath helped create the Ophthalmology Residency Training program at UCLA-Drew, which she also chaired—the first woman in the country to do so.

Dr. Bath retired from her position at the UCLA Medical Center in 1993. That same year, she was named a “Howard University Pioneer in Academic Medicine.”

Dr. Bath was an early advocate of telemedicine, the use of technology to provide medical services in remote areas. She went on to hold positions in telemedicine at Howard University and St. George’s University in Grenada.

Patricia died on May 30, 2019, from complications related to cancer at the age of 76.