Dr. Susan Maria Smith/McKinney/Steward was an Black American physician and author. Dr. Susan was the third Black American woman in the United States and the first in New York State to earn a medical degree. She specialized in Pediatrics and Homeopathy.

Susan M. Smith was born in March of 1846, in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York, to farming parents Sylvanus Smith (1800 – 1875), and Ann Eliza Springsteel/Smith (1815 – 1896). Susan was the seventh born of eleven children. Her oldest sister was Sarah J. Smith/Tompkins/Garnet (July 31, 1831 – September 17, 1911), who was the first Black American female principal in New York public school system, and her brother in-law was Henry Highland Garnet (December 23, 1815 – February 13, 1882), who was an prominent Black American leader, abolitionist, and first black minister to give a sermon before the House of Representatives in the capitol building.


Susan early education involved music, but despite that in 1867, at the age twenty, Susan entered the New York medical college for women, graduating three years later and earning her M.D. in 1870, at the age twenty-three. She also graduated as class valedictorian. She later did post-grad work at Long Island College Hospital. She became the first Black American female doctor in New York State and the third in the in the United States.

After graduating Dr. Smith established her own practice in her home in Brooklyn. Which she ran from 1870 to 1895. Dr. Smith specialized in prenatal care and childhood diseases and which she written papers on both these subjects. On July 12, 1871, at the age twenty-four, Dr. Susan married William G. McKinney, a traveling preacher, and together the couple had two children, William S. McKinney Jr., who became a clergyman in the Episcopal Church in New York, and Anna M. McKinney/Holly, who became a New York City School teacher and married M. Louis Holly.


Dr. Smith McKinney was active in the Kings County Homeopathy Medical Society in the State of New York. She presented two important papers on the Homeopathy subject. One in 1833 and another in 1886. In 1892, the McKinney home was stricken by tragedy when William McKinney passed away. Four years later Dr. Smith McKinney remarried to Theophilus Gould Steward (April 17, 1843 – January 11, 1924), an ordained minister, U.S. Army Chaplin and Buffalo Soldier of 25th United States Infantry. Mr. and Mrs. Steward had one child together. Dr. Steward travelled with her husband for several years throughout the West earning medical licenses in Montana and Wyoming. In 1907, Theophilus retired from the military and moved his family to Ohio, where Dr. Steward and Theophilus began working at Wilberforce University. Dr. Steward was hire first at Wilberforce University as a resident physician and faculty member to teach health and nutrition. Rev. Theophilus joined Wilberforce University shorty there after to teach history.


Dr. Steward was involved in local missionary work and women’s suffrage advocacy. She was also the president of the Brooklyn Women’s Christian Temperance Union No.6. In 1909, the Steward’s vacationed in Europe, only to return again in 1911, when Dr. Steward presented a paper entitled “Colored American Women“, before the first universal race of congress in London. By this time Dr. Steward was an accomplished public speaker and in 1914, she delivered another amazing speech entitled ” Women in Medicine“, at the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs Convention. Dr. Smith McKinney Steward practiced medicine for 48 years.


On March 7, 1918, at the age of 71, Dr. Susan Smith/McKinney/Steward passed away. At her funeral,

William Edward Burghardt “W. E. B.” Du Bois (February 23, 1868 – August 27, 1963), delivered the eulogy, and she was buried in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery with a monument to her achievements. Her grandson, William S. McKinney Jr., persistently prompted the New York City Board of Education to rename a Brooklyn school the Dr. Susan Smith McKinney Junior High School in 1975. Later, the Susan Smith McKinney Steward Medical Society was founded by Black American women doctors in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.


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