April 14, 2024

Black Entrepreneur History

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Dr. Matilda Arabella Evans – First Woman Surgeon in South Carolina & Founder of the Taylor Lane Hospital

Once upon a time in Black Entrepreneur History lived and African American doctor named Matilda Evans, M.D., and she became the founder of Taylor Lane Hospital & Nurses Training School for African Americans in 1901, located in the city of Columbia, South Carolina. She was also the first Black woman licensed woman physician in the state of South Carolina.


Matilda Evans was born in Aiken, South Carolina in 1872, and from the time she was a child, she knew she wanted to become a doctor. It was while she was a young teenager that the founder of an African American school named Martha Schofield of the Schofield Normal and Industrial School became interested in assisting Matilda in furthering her education.

Matilda attended the Schofield Normal and Industrial School, and after finishing, went on to attend school in Philadelphia with financial aid from Marth Schofield and others. It was then that Matilda set her sights on attending Oberlin College. She enrolled at Oberlin College in Ohio where African American students were being accepted. With $65 dollars in her pocket, she set off to Oberlin College, and when she was there for only three months, she earned a competitive scholarship. It was with this scholarship money and working as a waitress and canning fruit that she earned her degree in 1892 with high honors.

After gaining her degree, she worked in Augusta, Georgia in missionary work among the people of her race. When her work in Augusta was completed, she returned to the Schofield School in Aiken to teach. It was with this salary that she was able to return to higher education an earn her medical degree at the Women’s Medical College in Philadelphia where she received her M.D.

Dr. Matilda Evan’s Medical Career

Instead of going to Africa as she’d planned, she instead chose Columbia, South Carolina when she discovered the need in the city. Therefore, in 1897, she founded her medical office clinic in Columbia on 1014 Lady Street, and began taking African American patients as well as teaching African American women three times a week. She specialized in gynecology, general surgery, hygienics, obstetrics and pediatrics.

It was soon that Dr. Matilda Evans was asked to provide medical treatment to a white woman who recovered and also her ill daughter soon after. It was then that Dr. Matilda Evan’s name was widespread in the city for being a great doctor between both Black and white people, making her the only Black woman doctor in the city to attend to white people as well.

From this boost in popularity and charitable funds, Dr. Evans decided to open a hospital in the city which was much needed, and she called this hospital Taylor Lane Hospital & Nurses Training School. It was an immediate success, located in a two story building, with three wards and an operating room. The offices were on the bottom floor, nurses training/living area, and dining while Dr. Evans crafted some of the furniture used on the bottom floor herself.

Taylor Lane Hospital trained and released into the field the best African American nurses, and they were in high demand, having no problem finding work in the South where more of their services are needed. Most of the African American patients Dr. Evans treated for free or they would pay her post-services due to the lack of money. Because the white patients had the ability to pay, this is what kept her hospital open and allowed her to care for the African Americans who were sick and unable to earn a decent livable wage due to not only illness, but discrimination and racism at the time in the South.

As far as donations, they were slim, and since the time it opened, Taylor Lane Hospital never turned a full profit. Every nurse was paid with room and board plus training, not dollars. The chef was the only paid employee. Taylor Lane Hospital was only just breaking even, but Dr. Evans never once decided to stop treating African Americans.

Instead of focusing on becoming wealthy like she could have easily done in the North, she opted to remain in the South helping her people in the city of Columbia, having treated over 4,000 and by 1935 having treated over 12,000 in extensions to her medical clinic. She is known as a woman and doctor who doesn’t have money at heart, but has “her race at heart.[1]

Later, due to the lack of funds, Dr. Evans went up North to request funds from everyone capable, and she also opened St. Luke’s Hospital in 1914, a health institution for African Americans. Dr. Evans also showed her philanthropy and love for people in that she carried the entire expense of examining public school children on her shoulders. This love for people and seeing the need for quality medical care in the area led her to open the first clinic for African American children that was completely free of charge called the Evan’s Clinic (1930). It was through her examination of school children that laid the foundation for the state to continue examination of school children to ensure their good health.

Not only was Dr. Evans the most and only established woman in medicine in Columbia, she founded her own weekly newspaper, The Negro Health Journal of South Carolina

Dr. Matilda Evans Death, Honors & Memberships

Dr. Matilda Arabella Evans passed away on November 17, 1935 in her Columbia, South Carolina home. She’d begun losing her own life while attending a former co-worker’s funeral in Kershaw County, South Carolina, and she was immediately rushed to her own home within an hour away. Her funeral was held at St. Luke Episcopal Church and was buried in Palmetto Cemetery. She left this earth a single adoptive mother of seven children, having never been married.

Today, Dr. Matilda Evan’s Taylor Lane Hospital/House stands at 2027 Taylor Street and is an African American Heritage Site in Columbia, SC, as she was the first African American woman to own and operate a hospital in the what is known as Metro of Columbia.

Dr. Evans is remembered with honors and memberships:

  • National Negro Medical Association President
  • Volunteer Medical Service Corp in the World War under National Council of Defense
  • Supervised first time surgeons at Taylor Lane Hospital
  • Founder of the South Carolina Good Health Association
  • President of the Palmetto State Negro Medical Society (the only African American lady serve as president of a Medical Association in the United States)
  • Trustee at Haynes College
  • Founder of Boys Recreational Program
  • Founded Columbia Clinic Association for education of families

Sources:

  1. The State,10 Jan 1910, Mon · Page 3
  2. The Charlotte Observer, 20 Nov 1932, Sun · Page 50
  3. The State, 18 Nov 1935, Mon · Page 9