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Dr. Dorothy Lavinia Brown – the first African American woman surgeon in the South.

in Changing the Face of Medicine – Celebrating Women Physicians

Dr. Dorothy Lavinia Brown spent her childhood in an orphanage and grew up to become the first African American woman surgeon in the South, eventually being made chief of surgery at Nashville’s Riverside Hospital. She was also the first African American woman to be made a fellow of the American College of Surgeons.

Dorothy Lavinia Brown was born in Philadelphia in 1919. Soon after her birth, her mother, Edna Brown, moved to upstate New York and placed her in an orphanage there. The predominantly white Troy Orphanage (later renamed Vanderhyden Hall) was her home from age five months until her thirteenth birthday, when her mother reclaimed her. By that time, however, the orphanage seemed a safer home than the one her estranged mother could provide, so Dorothy ran away five times, returning each time to the orphanage. As a teen, she worked as a maid and at the Wing Sing Chinese Laundry. Determined to get an education, she finally ran away at age 15 to enroll in Troy High School. When the principal realized that she did not have anywhere to stay, he arranged for a foster home with Lola and Samuel Wesley Redmon. They became a major influence throughout Dorothy Brown’s life, as a source of security, support, and enduring values.  FOR MORE


Dr. Dorothy Lavinia Brown was a medical pioneer, educator, and community leader.  In 1948-1949 Brown became the first African American female appointed to a general surgery residency in the de jure racially segregated South.  In 1956 Brown became the first unmarried woman in Tennessee authorized to be an adoptive parent, and in 1966 she became the first black woman representative to the state legislature in Tennessee.  FOR MORE

Black History, BLACK LIVES, women in medicine, women in science, women leaders, womens history, WOMENS LIVES

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