Born in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina in 1864 to Emily and George Washington Grier, her road to redefinition from slavery began when after emancipation, Eliza Grier decided to become a teacher, she studied for seven years at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.
But she wanted more and aspired for a career as a physician, believing it could be of most benefit to others as well as fetch in a fair wage.
“When I saw colored women doing all the work in cases of accouchement … or, childbirth and all the fee going to some white doctor who merely looked on, I asked myself why should I not get the fee myself.”
December of 1890, Eliza Grier put her best foot forward and took on examination at the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, that was the beginning of history, she emerged successful.
“I have no money and no source from which to get it,” she wrote, “Only as I work for every dollar.” She asked the dean “if there was any possible way for an emancipated slave to receive any help into so lofty a profession.”
She got her admission but to pay the tuition, Eliza Grier had to alternate each year of study with a year of picking cotton. Despite these hardships, focused and determined, she did not lose sight of her goal. After seven years of work and study, she graduated in 1897, and returned to Atlanta. Later that year, Dr. Eliza Ann Grier became the first African American woman licensed to practice medicine in the state of Georgia.
But after only four years, Dr. Grier fell ill which greatly affected her medical practice. Determined to keep up with her work, she called on various supporters for help. She wrote to Susan B. Anthony, leader of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, to ask for her help, but died soon thereafter. She, in 1898 was quoted as saying:
“I went to Philadelphia, studied medicine hard, procured my degree, and have come back to Atlanta, where I have lived all my life, to practice my profession… Some of the best white doctors in the city have welcomed me, and say that they will give me an even chance in the profession. That is all I ask.”
Nonetheless, Dr. Eliza Grier’s remarkable achievement is forever cemented in the history books.