Sarah Jones, the first African-American woman to pass the Virginia Medical Examining Board’s exam in 1893

Stephen Nartey November 15, 2022
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She was the first African-American woman to pass the Virginia Medical Examining Board’s examination in 1893. She scored the highest grades in surgery, practice and hygiene. Dr. Sarah Boyd Jones, known as Sallie Boyd in her early years, began her medical journey in 1890 when she decided to study medicine at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

When she attained her medical degree in 1893, she dedicated a one-hour free daily clinic for women and children while making sure the marginalized Richmond community benefitted from services, according to the Encyclopedia Virginia. 

Her medical skills came in handy at a time when the African-American community was witnessing a high mortality rate compared to white residents. When an African-American mother goes into labor, there was a high possibility of her returning with stillbirth. Jones dedicated her skills and knowledge to reverse this trend. She was among the only three female physicians in practice and a handful of African-American physicians at the time. 

She was born to Ellen D. Boyd and George W. Boyd in February 1866 in Albemarle County. Her father was one of the prominent contractors in the Richmond community. It was one of the reasons they migrated to Henrico County in the 1860s. He was responsible for many of the iconic structures built in Richmond including the Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church and the large hall of the Grand Fountain United Order of True Reformers.

She had her early education at the Richmond Coloured Normal School. When she finished her second cycle education, Jones became a teacher at the Baker School where she taught with prominent educationist Rosa L. Dixon Bowser and the poet Daniel Webster Davis. She spent five years teaching at the basic level until her marriage to another teacher, Miles B. Jones, on July 4, 1888. 

When she attained her medical degree, Jones undertook several interventions aimed at ensuring expanding access to African Americans who were interested in the medical profession. In 1893, she took up the position of a medical examiner for the female members of the Southern Aid and Insurance Company, which was the only institution that recognized female doctors. She was also part of the medical examiners for the Woman’s Corner Stone Beneficial Association in 1897.

Due to the barriers impeding the access of African Americans to professional medical care in the Richmond community, she decided to lecture at the nursing training school that the Women’s Central League of Richmond ran. 

With her husband, they established the Medical and Chirurgical Society of Richmond on February 19, 1902, when African-American physicians were barred from joining white medical societies. To also improve access to medical facilities that offered quality medical care to African Americans, she and her husband bought a house and converted it into a hospital in February 1903. 

In April 1905, Jones became ill after caring for a patient and died of active cerebral congestion at her Richmond home on May 11, 1905. Following a funeral attended by hundreds of Richmonders, she was buried in the city’s Evergreen Cemetery. 

In 1922, the Sarah G. Jones Memorial Hospital, Medical College and Training School for Nurses was named in her honor.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: November 15, 2022


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