Historical marker to honor state’s first licensed woman doctor

Annie Lowrie Alexander
Annie Lowrie Alexander N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources

Annie Lowrie Alexander, who in 1885 became the state’s first licensed woman doctor, will be honored with a state highway historical marker on North Tryon Street next Tuesday. Alexander practiced in Charlotte for over 40 years.

The dedication will be at 2 p.m. at 400 N. Tryon St., the site of Alexander’s home and office. A reception at the main public library at 310 N. Tryon St. will follow the dedication.

Alexander “spent her life in service to others, encouraged by her father to follow him into the medical field,” Susan Kluttz, N.C. Natural and Cultural Resources secretary, said in announcing the marker dedication . “She was a beacon to women and proof to men that females could undertake and excel in this profession.”

Alexander was born in Mecklenburg County in 1864 and began her practice in 1887, according to Kluttz’s department.

Initially educated by her father, Dr. John Alexander, and a tutor, Alexander graduated from Women’s Medical College in Philadelphia and briefly taught and practiced in Baltimore.

In 1887, this advertisement appeared in The Charlotte Observer: “A nice young female physician, Miss Annie Lowrie Alexander, has located in this city and is ready to practice among women and children…”

Her caseload was largely gynecology, obstetrics and early childhood diseases, but she treated a wide variety of illnesses from an office in her home for most of her career, according to the department.

During World War I, Charlotte was home to Camp Greene, a large training facility, and Alexander was designated a temporary first lieutenant and acting assistant surgeon in the U.S. Army Medical Corps. That allowed her to advocate for improved preventative and therapeutic medicine for children.

Alexander also was physician to the YMCA, students at Presbyterian College for Women and the Crittenden Home for Unwed Mothers. She served on many boards and often spoke to adolescents and women about hygiene, modesty and physical health.

Alexander never married, but raised a boy born to an unwed mother at the Crittenden Home, and after the death of her brother in 1901, raised his seven children. She died in 1929 after contracting pneumonia from a patient and is buried in Charlotte.

She was nominated for a highway historical marker by Serena Chu, a student of South Central High School in Pitt County. Chu created a web page about Alexander and entered it in a North Carolina History Day competition, winning second prize at the state competition. She subsequently nominated Alexander for a highway marker.

The Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room and Charlotte Center City Partners will host a reception in the auditorium of the Mecklenburg County Main Library at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, where Serena also will be honored. For details, or to RSVP, call 704-416-0150 or email ncrstaff@cmlibrary.org.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak