Fact Friday 285 - The First Woman Physician in NC

Fact Friday 285 - The First Woman Physician in NC

Happy Friday!

Annie Lowrie Alexander was born on January 10, 1864 near the town of Cornelius in northern Mecklenburg County. Her parents were Dr. John Brevard Alexander and Annie Wall Lowrie Alexander. On her father's side, Annie’s ancestors were some of the county’s most illustrious leaders during the American Revolution.

In 1882, Annie Alexander, age seventeen, entered the Woman’s Medical College in Philadelphia. The Woman’s Hospital Dispensary for Women and Children was located next door to the Medical College. This provided many opportunities for the students to obtain clinical and practical experience. This training was essential if women physicians were to make any achievements in medicine. 

From the Charlotte Home Democrat, May 29, 1885:

"Miss Annie Lowrie Alexander of Mecklenburg County passed an examination before the Board of Medical Examiners in Durham and was admitted as a member of the North Carolina Medical Association."

One of her first actions as a professional doctor was to deliver a lecture at the Farmer's Institute in Concord, Cabarrus County in 1887.

In 1890, Dr. Annie purchased a home at 410 North Tryon Street from R. J. Shipp of Catawba County for $3,500. This one-story home served as both her office and residence. Dr. Annie kept her horse and buggy in a stable behind the house and used it to visit patients all over the county. 

Alexander had been in practice for over a decade in 1903, when the local physicians organized themselves into the Mecklenburg County Medical Society. She evidently welcomed this step towards professionalization, for she was one of the charter members, as was her father. “Annie L. Alexander” was the second person to sign the roster. Dr. Alexander must have won the respect of the male physicians of Charlotte, for she served as the first Secretary-Treasurer of the Medical Society.

With the establishment of an organized medical society, Mecklenburg County physicians adopted standardized two-fee lists. One was for Charlotte and the incorporated towns and the other was for “regular county practice.”

County Practice Fees (1903)

  • A home visit was $1.50 and additional fifty cents for every three miles the physician traveled.
  • Obstetrical Cases were $7.00. 
  • After 10:00 p.m. the fees doubled.

By the late 1890s, Dr. Annie enjoyed an ever-expanding medical practice. She had privileges at both St. Peter’s and Presbyterian Hospitals. Dr. Annie’s house calls took her to various locations in the county and she treated patients from all walks of life and of any race.

In addition to caring for individual patients, Annie Alexander also concerned herself with improving the health of the whole community. As such, she was a pioneer in public health before that field even had a name. Throughout her medical career, Dr. Annie witnessed how disease and poor living conditions contributed to the early deaths of young mothers and children. She devoted her spare time to promoting health and well-being at a time when life in Mecklenburg County, like most areas in the South, lacked good sanitation.

By the late 1890s, Dr. Annie enjoyed an ever expanding medical practice. In addition to her medical privileges, she was on the Board of the Associated Charities, The Co-operative Nurses Association, and the Florence Crittenton Home for Unwed Mothers. She also served as one of the Managers to the YWCA and was the attending physician at both institutions. Dr. Annie also served as the physician for the students at Presbyterian College, a local woman’s school, which later became Queens College.

In her personal life, Annie Alexander was active in the Colonial Dames, the Mecklenburg Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Stonewall Jackson Chapter of United Daughters of the Confederacy. 

Alexander in Colonial Dames attire. 


Until next week, 


Email me at chris@704shop.com if you have interesting Charlotte facts you’d like to share or just to provide feedback!

Information taken from: 

CMStory.org - "Dr. Annie Alexander: A Lifetime of Service"

“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass

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