A pioneering physician in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Caroline Still Anderson was also an educator and activist in her local community. She was one of the first Black women to become a physician in the United States.
Anderson was born Caroline Virginia Still on November 1, 1848, as the oldest daughter of Letitia and William Still. Her parents were well-known leaders in the American abolitionist movement. Her father led the Philadelphia branch of the Underground Railroad shortly after her birth. Anderson finished her primary and secondary education at the age of 16 and went on to attend Oberlin College, where she was the only black student in her class.
By the age of 19, she had earned her Bachelor of Arts degree and was elected as the first black president of the Ladies’ Literary Society of Oberlin. Anderson married her first husband, Edward A. Wiley, an Oberlin alum and former slave. The wedding was attended by many luminaries of the U.S. antislavery movement.
Anderson moved back to Philadelphia and became a teacher of elocution, drawing, and music, a career path she continued until 1875, two years after her first husband’s death. Later that year, she matriculated at the Howard University College of Medicine; she ultimately earned her Doctor of Medicine degree from the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, where she transferred in 1876 and graduated in 1878.
She began her medical career with an internship at Boston’s New England Hospital for Women and Children in 1878. Anderson soon remarried and opened a dispensary in her husband’s church; she also founded a private medical practice. By 1889, Anderson had revived her career as an educator by teaching hygiene, physiology, and public speaking while continuing her medical practice. Anderson died in 1914.