Doctor Ruth Janetta Temple was the first African American woman doctor in Los Angeles, California. Temple was born in 1892 in Natchez, Mississippi. After her father’s death, the Temple family moved to Los Angeles, California in 1904 where her mother worked as a practical nurse. Ruth would care for her five siblings while her mother was working.
After an accident where her brother was injured in a gunpowder explosion, Temple turned her interest to medicine. She attended Loma Linda University after completing her primary education where she was the first black woman to graduate. The same year she opened the first health clinic in the medically underserved community of southeast Los Angeles.
Temple and her husband, real estate developer Otis Banks, bought a house in East Los Angeles which they converted into the Temple Health Institute which provided free medical services and created the Health Study Club program which provided health education to parents, teachers, and school children. The health clinic’s model was duplicated in communities across the nation. Ruth Temple’s internship in maternity service at the Los Angeles Health Department (1923-28) inspired her to specialize in obstetrics and gynecology. Dr. Ruth Temple died in 1984 at the age of 91.