Houston’s first African-American female physician, Thelma Adele Patten Law, set up practice in 1924. She was born in 1900 in Huntsville, Texas, to Mason B. and Pauline Patten. Her parents were well-known throughout the black community in Houston. Her father worked as a railway mail clerk and was a founding member of the NAACP Houston chapter, and her mother was a teacher.
Pattern attended Colored High School where she was named valedictorian of her class in 1917. After graduating, she attended Howard University in Washington, D.C. She later interned at Freedmen’s Hospital from 1923 to 1924.
She then returned to Houston and joined other black physicians who served the area’s 30,000 black residents as she set up practice as the only African-American female physician. She was also the first black female physician admitted to membership in the Harris County Medical Society in 1955.
Dr. Thelma Patten Law, whose specialty was obstetrics and gynecology, offered female patients prenatal care and the opportunity to have babies in a hospital attended by a physician, many for the first time. She delivered hundreds of babies at the Houston Negro Hospital.
Law led a very active social life and served on the board of the Negro Child Center. In 1927, she was the co-founder and first president of the Houston chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. In 1962, Law was honored as “Woman of the Year” by the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority. She died in 1968.