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Dr. Sophia B. Jones and Ludie Clay Andrews, Class of 1906

April 2020

Nursing Student attending a Baby Year UnknownThroughout Spelman’s history, our students and alumnae have committed themselves to the College's mission to inspire positive social change, and thus improve the human condition around the world.

Today, we are honoring two women who dedicated their life’s work to breaking barriers and transforming the medical industry -- faculty member Dr. Sophia B. Jones and alumna Ludie Clay Andrews, C’1906. Each of them, through their achievements in nursing education, immensely impacted Spelman and the state of Georgia 

Moving the Healthcare Industry Forward

We are more conscious now, more than ever, that the medical sector is an essential component of our society. Particularly in times like these, we depend on nurses, physicians, lab technicians, allied health professionals, and every healthcare employee on the front lines and behind the scenes, to care for our communities and protect public health.

Although many improvements still need to be made, and the flaws in our medical system have become even more apparent and urgent than before, these Spelman pioneers moved the industry forward, and laid a solid foundation for Black women’s inclusion in the medical field today. 

Dr. Sophia B. Jones Breaks Barriers 

Spelman Alumna Sophia B. JonesIn 1885, Dr. Sophia B. Jones became the first Black woman to join Spelman’s faculty. She taught nurses training, and also directed the school infirmary, where her students were able to refine their skills. She had received her medical degree from the University of Michigan Medical College, and shared her knowledge with her Spelman students until 1888.

Standing on the foundation Dr. Jones established, Spelman Seminary student Ludie Clay Andrews enrolled in our Nurse Training Program in 1901. After successfully completing the program in 1906, she strove to make a difference in her community as a hospital nurse. Unfortunately, however,  white nurses opposed allowing state registration for colored nurses, claiming it would deprive them of employment. 

Ludie Clay Andrews Refused to Give Up

Andrews persisted, and applied repeatedly for certification, however she was consistently denied in Georgia, so she left and secured a position at Provident Hospital, the first Black hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. She sent a message back to Georgia that she would accept the out-of-state position if the state would not approve her registration.

White doctors whom she had worked with in Atlanta agreed to cooperate with her efforts, so she returned, consulted a lawyer, compared state requirements to Spelman’s Nurse Training curriculum, and prepared to take the matter to court. To avoid adverse publicity, the white nurses withdrew their opposition. In 1919, Andrews became Georgia’s first Black registered nurse.

Opening Doors and Making Room for More Black Nurses

Spelman Alumna Ludie Clay AndrewsIn a letter dated October 23, 1919, to Lucy Hale Tapley, then president of Spelman Seminary, Andrews wrote: “I am at present the only registered colored nurse in the state. It has been a long, tedious, and hard fight but I can truly say some things come to those who wait provide they work while they wait… I am happy to think that the other nurses who come after we are gone will not have to wait as we did. With this accomplished, I am resolved to do all in my power to elevate the standards of nursing by my own personal conduct and professional service.”

In 1920, determined to create space for more Black nurses to join her, Andrews secured state registration for all colored nurses after more than ten years of determined effort. She went on to establish the Municipal Training School for Colored Nurses at Grady Memorial Hospital in 1917, and served as the president of the Colored Nurses Association. She also taught courses in social problems from the health standpoint at the Atlanta School of Social Work.

Andrews dedicated her efforts to improve her lama mater as well and taught nursing and hygiene classes at Spelman for 20 years. She also served as the superintendent of MacVicar Hospital, which was built the same year her journey in medicine began -- in 1901, the year she entered Spelman’s nursing program.

Paving the Way for a Brighter Tomorrow

Nursing Students in McVicar Year UnknownThough we still face a multitude of challenges in the healthcare system, including racial and gender discrimination against both patients and staff, these Spelman pioneers overcame the obstacles of their time and paved the way for future Black nurses.

Many of our students and alumnae are following in their footsteps today by pursuing careers in medicine with the goal of improving the field and opening even more doors. We are confident that Dr. Jones and RN Andrews would be in awe of what their Spelman sisters are doing.  We have faith that their work will be continued by generations of Spelmanites for years to come.

Read More About Spelman Healthcare Heroes. 


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