Dr. Matilda Arabella Evans
Inspiring people are all around us, from our collective past to the everchanging, encouraging, and hopeful present. It isn’t hard to find people to aspire to be like or at least find qualities we can implement into our lives meaningfully. Dr. Matilda Arabella Evans, born May 13, 1972, to both Anderson and Harriet Evans in Aiken, South Carolina, the eldest of three, was the first African- American Woman in the state of South Carolina to not only become a doctor but also found two hospitals, publish a newspaper, find a research journal, and serve her country in a time of need.
She raised over five children from relatives and friends who either died or could not care for them and fostered over 11 different children who were left at her practice. Her legacy and mission were a career in charity, compassion, and the love of children. For the entirety of her life, she was not only an advocate for African American healthcare. Still, she spoke for universal healthcare – as a personal right to have, just as much as education.
After graduating from Oberlin College in Oberlin, Georgia, she accepted a teaching position at Haines Institute in Augusta, Georgia. After a year of teaching, Matilda entered the Pennsylvania women’s doctoral college with the support of her mentor, Martha Schofield. In 1897, Evans received her medical degree and was one of the very first African American women to be able to do so.
She specialized in surgery, gynaecology, obstetrics, pediatrics, and hygienics in her practice. She was an advocate for education, humanitarianism, and public health. Her mentor, Martha Schofield, even encouraged her to write her own biography.
Dr. Matilda Evans founded the Taylor Lane Hospital in Columbia in 1901. The hospital was founded because no other medical facility would accept patients of African American descent. Evans established another hospital, the St. Luke’s Hospital, for training school for nurses.
It was because she opened the doors to her practice to treat patients of all colors and classes that she became established in her career and provided free healthcare for women, children, and the lower class. She would charge a nominal fee for those of a white background to be able to provide free healthcare for those of African American descent. As a hallmark of her resilience and tenacity, she would ride bicycles, horses, and buggies to visit the sick who could not attend their surgeries.
Near the end of her life and career, in 1922, Dr. Matilda Evans had the opportunity to serve as the president of a state medical association. Evan’s, in addition, was also able to serve as a regional vice president of the National Medical Association. During World War 1, Evans was appointed to the Volunteer Medical Service Corps.
Dr. Matilda Arabella Evans led a rich, fulfilling, and incredible life. When she died on Nov. 17, 1935, she left a legacy of kindness, healing, compassion, and charity—compounded with a strong sense of community and service, attesting to her resilient spirit to help others regardless of race. Dr. Matilda Evans is a hero of many who knew who she was and those who have just discovered her story.
That inspiration and that calling to help others lives on.