sarah boyd jones was a boss.
born in 1866 in richmond, virginia, she was the first black woman to pass the state’s medical board’s examination. an alum of howard university’s medical school, she was a school teacher for five years before becoming a doctor.
however, she didn’t anticipate being a doctor. while teaching, the state passed laws denying black men the opportunity to teach in public schools. since sarah’s husband was also a teacher, the couple decided to leave the classroom to make an impact in the medical field. clearly, beyoncé wasn’t the first woman to make lemonade out of lemons.
one of the most inspiring components of sarah’s story was her commitment to her community. after becoming a board certified physician, she offered a daily free clinic in richmond for women and children. at the time, black people suffered a mortality rate nearly twice as high as whites, and black mothers suffered a disproportionate rate of stillbirths.
sarah went on to create the first medical society for black doctors in virginia. the group formed the richmond hospital association in 1902 and built a hospital for black patients. their work was critical since the black community had such limited access to medical facilities due to segregation.
during her career, sarah successfully served black and white patients as one of richmond’s only three female doctors. she lived a short life, dying at the age of 39, but her impact as the only black woman in the state practicing medicine was undeniable.
black women like sarah boyd jones who make history for their achievements are the definition of magic.
not only did they overcome racial oppression, but they also told sexism to kick rocks. they were bold enough to look misgynoir (combined sexism and racism) in the face and achieve greatness anyway. if that ain’t a boss move, i don’t know what is.
for women’s history month, let’s challenge ourselves to glow up like sarah. here’s five major boss moves to takeaway from her story:
be your own example
at a time when there were few black board certified doctors in the entire state of virginia, ms. jones defied expectations. she didn’t wait on someone to tell her she was bright enough to be a doctor. she didn’t wait on someone to tell her she was capable of being the first black woman to pass the state’s board examination. she had the courage and audacity to believe in her unlimited potential. there’s no prototype for the person you were made to become. stop waiting on someone else to be your example and step into your glory.
stand up in the face of oppression
imagine if sarah would have remained in the classroom, instead of becoming a doctor. i imagine her attending medical school was a middle finger to the establishment that denied her husband the right to teach. she took this rebellion a step further by treating black patients for free and building a hospital for those denied access to other facilities. a real boss takes a stand for what she believes in. like sarah, she works to create a more just society.
create your tribe
behind every success story is a tribe and sometimes you have to create your own. sarah took black doctors not being allowed into all white medical associations as a call to action. instead of lamenting her lack of access, she created one for people like her. if you see a void in your community, fill it. if you are seeking fellowship around a common interest, create a tribe.
we often hear, “to whom much is given, much is required.” sarah boyd jones took this message to heart. her time as a physician was literally in service of others through a free clinic, medical association and hospital she created for the black community. bosses give back. they live by the principle that their gifts are meant to serve others.
i bet sarah traveled around richmond in her horse and buggy delivering babies and treating patients with a smile on her face. she’d unapologetically broken down barriers to live on her own terms — that’s cause for endless celebration. her story reminds us that when we achieve our goals, we have to step back and enjoy the moment. history isn’t made simply by the struggle. it’s how we live in our success that counts.
we have examples all around us of boss women who are making major moves. if you’re reading this, you’re probably one of them. use sarah boyd jones’ story to fuel your glow and change the world.
This post is brought to you by the 2019 Commemoration/American Evolution. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the 2019 Commemoration.