Dr. Harriet Alleyne Rice, Class of 1887

Dr. Harriet Alleyne Rice
Class of 1887

Dr. Harriet Alleyne Rice was born in Newport, Rhode Island in 1866. She matriculated at Wellesley College in 1883 and became the first African American to graduate from the institution four years later. Following her graduation in 1887, Dr. Rice earned her M.D. in 1891 at the Women’s Medical College of the New York Infirmary for Women and Children. Despite rampant racism against Black physicians and discrimination against female physicians, Dr. Rice had an accomplished medical career. As an African American woman, she was forbidden from practicing medicine at any American hospital, so she put her skills to use in other ways. Soon after medical school, she provided medical treatment to poor families at the celebrated Hull House in Chicago alongside social worker and women’s suffrage leader, Jane Addams. She would also go on to become a researcher at Columbia University Medical Center, a military physician for three years in France during WWI, a private medical doctor, and a dedicated member of the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross Episcopal sisterhood.

Dr. Rice’s career reflects her unparalleled bravery and dedication to helping others, despite the odds against her. Records housed at the Wellesley College Archives reveal her candor about her experience as a Black woman. In response to a question asking of a handicap, physical or other, on the Alumnae Association biographical sheet sent to Dr. Rice in January 1935 she said, “Yes! I’m colored which is worse than any crime in this God blessed Christian country!” Dr. Rice died in 1958, not very far from Wellesley, in Worcester, MA.