Matilda Evans healed much of South Carolina
On this date we celebrate the birth of Matilda Arabelle Evans, an African American surgeon in 1872.
The oldest of three children born to Harriet and Andy Evans, Matilda was from Aiken County, South Carolina. As a student at the Scholfield Normal and Industrial School, she became a protégé of the school's founder, Martha Scholfield, an outstanding educator. Evans attended Oberlin College in Ohio before enrolling at the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania to earn a medical degree. She then returned to South Carolina to practice surgery, gynecology, and obstetrics. Evans opened her medical practice in Columbia, which, at that time, offered no hospital facilities for African-American people.
With a generosity that was typical of her, Evans took patients into her own home until she could establish a hospital for them. In 1901, she established the Taylor Lane Hospital, both a hospital and a training school for nurses. The hospital was later destroyed by fire that led to another hospital before moving to a larger facility, which was named the St. Luke's Hospital and Training School for Nurses. In 1918, she became a registered volunteer in the Medical Service Corps of the United States Army. She also founded the Good Health Association of South Carolina to help convince people that they could improve their own health by following sound health practices and safe sanitary habits.
Charity, compassion, and a love of children were the hallmarks of Dr. Evans' career; she charged only nominal fees. She rode bicycles, horses and buggies to visit the sick who were unable to go to her surgery. She provided for school physical examinations and immunizations, which saved the lives of countless young children, and in 1930, operated a clinic that was free for Black children who needed medical treatment and vaccinations. Incredibly, Evans found the time to raise 11 children who needed a home.
In addition to becoming a "mother" to some of the children who were left at her practice, she brought up five children from relatives who had died. She taught the children respect, cleanliness, and manners, and provided them all with the opportunity for a college education. People, young and old, enjoyed the facilities that she shared at a recreational center which she developed on her 20-acre farm.
Evans was an active member of St. Luke's Episcopal Church and she loved to swim, dance, knit and play the piano. Richland Memorial Hospital in Columbia has named an award in her honor.
The first African-American woman to be licensed as a physician in South Carolina, Matilda Evans died in 1935.
The Encyclopedia Britannica, Twenty-fourth Edition.
Copyright 1996 Encyclopedia Britannica Inc.