By Ruthe Winegarten
Brave Black girls: From Slavery to the distance commute through Ruthe Winegarten
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Extra info for Brave Black Women. From Slavery to the Space Shuttle
In 1937, Dr. Connie Yerwood Connor was appointed as the first black physician on the staff of the Texas Department of Health. She specialized in preventive medicine and worked hard as she traveled thousands of miles to rural communities, opening clinics for pregnant women and infants and children. She also helped train midwives at a time when most Texas babies of all races were born at home. Over the years, Dr. Yerwood was repeatedly passed over for promotions. After the Civil Rights Act of 1964, she was finally promoted to be the first black director of Maternal and Child Services in Texas, and later the first black chief of the Bureau of Personal Health Services.
Most women then continued working alongside their husbands in the fields as sharecroppers. Many newly freed people began farming for themselves. This family was able to buy a horse. Unfortunately, most of the farm families had to borrow money from the owners for seeds and tools and fertilizer. Often they didn’t make enough money to pay off their debts. The landowners usually cheated them, too, especially if they couldn’t read. And brutal men would attack them if they tried to defend their rights.
This was a tradition of service often passed down from mother to daughter. In the days of segregation, Olive Brown had to leave the state to get her degree in library science—from Hampton Institute in Virginia. She was the head librarian at Huston-Tillotson College in Austin for thirty-three years. (Samuel Huston College and Tillotson College were separate institutions in the beginning. Tillotson opened in 1881 and Huston in 1900. ) Ethelyn Taylor Chisum was a dean at Booker T. Washington High School in Dallas for 32 years.
Brave Black Women. From Slavery to the Space Shuttle by Ruthe Winegarten