First female physician in Allegheny City
Charity Jane Vincent was Allegheny City’s first female physician. Upon earning her degree and medical license, the 29 year old doctor moved to Allegheny City in 1882 where she shared a house with first her sister and then her sister and her mother. As was common at the time, Dr. Vincent maintained a private practice that worked out of the first floor of their home.
The Vincent family was a large, progressive Protestant family that valued education for both their sons and their daughters. Dr. Vincent found support in her family that she did not find in the greater community she worked so hard to serve.
The late 1800s were a difficult time for any woman to pursue a medical career. Dr. Vincent was one of the pioneers in the medical field and the town she chose for her practice did not make her work any easier. In an insightful biographical sketch of Dr. Vincent, Ruth McCartan succinctly captured the context of Dr. Vincent’s practice: “Allegheny City at this time was the third largest city in the state with immigrants arriving daily. The need for health care was great…” [The Beloved Physician,” The Allegheny City Reporter Dispatch, Winter 1998, p 2] Allegheny was a large city, a growing city, and the new home to immigrants with little money and few other resources.
Despite having earned her degree at The Women’s Medical College in Philadelphia, Dr. Vincent was unable to secure hospital privileges in either Pittsburgh or Allegheny until she was appointed the first of two surgical physicians at the newly reestablished Pittsburgh Infirmary in 1895. Dr. Vincent maintained her position at the Infirmary, her private practice and also served as one of four available physicians for the United Presbyterian Orphanage at the corner of Monterey and Jacksonia Streets. Dr. Vincent’s involvement with the orphanage increased exponentially when The United Presbyterian Memorial Hospital for Children was opened in 1889. The three ward, 13 bed hospital cared for over 400 patients in the first six years of operation. Dr. Vincent served as the president of the hospital board of managers. Her duties extended beyond the medical to include fiscal management of a hospital run solely on charitable donations.
Dr. Jane Vincent died suddenly on January 7, 1902, at her home on North Avenue. Having detailed her many accomplishments and duties it is hard to believe she was only 49 years old at the time of her death. Her death notice appeared in several of the local newspapers but, if there was an actual, longer obituary for her, it did not appear in any of the newspapers whose runs are preserved on microfilm. Ruth McCartan’s research revealed that, at the time of her death, Dr. Vincent’s “accounts receivable outstanding for medical service performed as of January 1902 were $6,479” of which, “only $688.10 was ever collected” [The Beloved Physician,” The Allegheny City Reporter Dispatch, Winter 1998, p 6]. Dr. Vincent’s success would never be measured in money but, instead, by the medical services she selflessly provided and the trail she blazed for future generations of women doctors.