The Book of Medical Discourses was dedicated “to mothers, nurses, and all who may desire to mitigate the afflictions of the human race.” Healthcare inequality is an old problem that has plagued women, immigrants, poor, and black communities. These communities couldn’t wait for doctors; they had to care for each other.
Rebecca Lee Crumpler started her medical education observing and assisting an aunt that took care of the sick and elderly. She was educated and began working as a nurse by 1852. In 1864, Lee graduated from the New England Female Medical College, becoming the first African American woman to receive an M.D. degree.
Most of what is known of Lee’s life she wrote in her Book of Medical Discourses in Two Parts, published in 1883. Not only was this one of the first medical publications by an African American, it was one of the first to give advice for women and children, addressing childbirth and the beginnings of womanhood.
Dr. Crumpler’s perseverance against racism and misogyny, during the Antebellum period and through the Civil War has largely been ignored by history. However, her books serve as historical references to the time period and provided invaluable information to the underserved communities she worked to serve.