[Home] [Book] [Expand] [Collapse] [Help]

Clear Search Expand Search


    DR. SUSAN S. (McKINNEY) STEWARD
  --  Born, Brooklyn, N. Y., 1848
  --  Died, Wilberforce, Ohio, 1918   Table of Contents     KNOW YE NOT THAT A GREAT WOMAN HATH
  --  FALLEN THIS DAY IN ISRAEL?
  --  Address of Miss Hallie Q. Brown on the occasion of the death
  --  Doctor Susan Maria Steward at Wilberforce, Ohio, March 7, 1918
.

Brown, Hallie Q.
Homespun heroines

- DR. SUSAN S. (McKINNEY) STEWARD -- Born, Brooklyn, N. Y., 1848 -- Died, Wilberforce, Ohio, 1918
- Illustration

raster
Dr. Susan S. McKinney Steward

The life story of the subject of this sketch is the unvarnished narration of a full fruitful finished career. Its unfolding is ample refutation of vile slanders that like deadly up as branches have again and again cast blighting shadows over the contingent of American women with whom she was identified by race extraction. It is also a confirmation of the latter day contention that woman can succeed and in strictly conventional fashion, in any endeavor which appeals to her upon which she concentrates attention and in the prosecution of normal conditions, thus furnishing a practical example of women alert enough to apprehend the privileges and comprehend the responsibilities that are at once the glory and the burden of womanhood.

One among the countless host of young women, obscure though ambitious, Susan Smith grew till physically and mentally she attained a harmonious maturity. At the time of her translation she had loomed up a conspicuous figure among even the exceptional women of her day and rank. She laid down mortality crowned with the success that is the legitmate result of intelligent, applied, strenuous activity.

The importance of the doctor's life history is enhanced by the stress of that extraordinary period of awakening on the part of women during which she lived. It was then that women were beginning to select their own life plans instead of tacitly accepting those arranged for them; when

raster
161
they were beginning to scrutinize and criticize the time honored and conventional, to discover to what extent their adoption or rejection would impede or forward the desire to live in the fullest sense of the term.

What induced Susan Smith to choose a medical profession cannot be difinitely stated; this is to be regretted for it would be highly interesting to trace her process of thought from the initial suggestion to the final conclusion. A sentiment is cherished by her family as one of the influences that, subconsciously it may have been, directed her natural bent toward a life of service. Upon an invalid neice she lavished the tenderest care in a sympathetic attempt to lessen the suffering of one afflicted in earliest youth. In this ministry of affection she was probably influenced to decide upon what later proved to be her proper place among the world's workers. Whatever the impelling cause the result amply verified the wisdom of her decision.

A woman who today enters upon professional life does a casual ordinary thing; it was vastly different a half century ago. The bugbear of that period was the fear that a woman would unsex herself. Only level headed, self reliant, determined women then ventured upon a course of action certain to elicit unfriendly criticism, likely to induce disparagement if not alienation.

It must be conceded that "our women" have always striven to keep abreast of the times; none have been more progressive, more aggressive. Whenever and wherever they have entered the arena of competition, while they have met equals, they have never been forced to retire before superiors. It is therefore more gratifying than surprising to find Miss Smith no exception in this respect. She studied at the New York Medical School for Women and Children and concluded an arduous course with success and distinction. The faculty gracefully recognized her merit by choosing her to be the valedictorian of her class, the strongest one then sent out.

Then followed a post graduate course at the Long

raster
162
Island College Hospital. She was the only female student in the class to which she was assigned. This involved no embarrassment. Though young she had acquired a measure of dignity and some common sense. These, joined to intense absorption in her studies, ensured the proprieties and rescued the situation from being humiliating as well as unusual.

She commenced practice in her native city. Business grew slowly but steadily and experience kept apace. Certain endowments of temper and temperament helped to abridge the probationary period, and in a few years she became a popular, properous family physician. Friends became patrons with growing confidence in her skill and devotion; strangers having solicited her services remained clients upon realizing she was capable and reliable. Her practice was unrestricted by race or sex discrimination and consultations brought her in frequent contact with leading New York practitioners. At the zenith of her Brooklyn career she maintained consulting offices in two widely separate sections. During this period she became the wife of the late Rev. Wm. G. McKinney. Her professional obligations were not less satisfactorily discharged by the addition of the duties of the home maker. Two children survive her, a son, Rev. William S. McKinney of Saint Stephens P. E. Church, Jamaica, L. I., and Mrs. James Carty, one of Brooklyn's successful school teachers.

The doctor had a talent for music; this she cultivated making is a source of both pleasure and profit. She studied under John Zundel, of Plymouth Church, and for years was organist and choirmaster in the Bridge Street African Methodist Church.

Dr. McKinney was a model of an "all around" woman; trained to routine in business, as a manager of a home, she pursued a plan in which the results of system in the economy of thought and strength were apparent; she succeeded in becoming an animating influence in her family circle, and adequately performed her social duties. She

raster
163
was one of the founders of the "Woman's Loyal Union" of New York and Brooklyn and for years was on the board of managers of the Brooklyn Home for Aged Colored People.

The doctor was an active member of the Kings County Homeopathic Society and a close student of the history of the rise and progress of women in medicine. In a monograph she pathetically wrote: "The earliest women physicians, a noble band of heroic, energetic women, through discouragements deep and dark, by hard work and with personal sacrifice, opened up the road of opportunity to the great army of women who are now following in the footsteps of their pioneer sisters."

The same article contains an eloquent tribute to the "beloved physician" who was to all her pupils, friend as well as preceptor. "Dr. Clemence Lozier was a most remarkable type of noble, energetic womanhood. She was firm though generous; kind though judicious; she attached very closely to her those fortunate enough to receive training under supervision. The college founded by this Christian lady is said to be the best women's college in the world to-day."

After Dr. McKinney became Dr. Steward by a second marriage to Rev. T. G. Steward, a former Chaplain in the United States Army and a professor at Wilberforce University, Brooklyn ceased to be her place of residence though it never ceased to be her home in the broader sense of the term. Her identification with it has survived her decease.

Any account of women in medicine would be incomplete without reference to Dr. Steward, any record of "our women" would be unfinished, lacking a resume of the salient points of her character. Her message to the world is, that no normal woman should neglect to seek opportunity for self-betterment. To women specially she has left the valuable bequest of the power and courage of an illustrious example. "To our women," the Colored Women of America, her eloquent though mute advice is, to take stock of resources

raster
164
available and limitations that restrict; learn to distinguish between proper ambitions and sordid greed. Cultivate a desire for a full life, one of selection and expansion to the limit, keeping ever inviolate the purity and prestige of womanhood. Glorify the life individual and claim scope for that free full development which is the birthright of every human being.

The manner of passing out of earthly existence is by no means of necessity an index how one has passed through it, yet the "ceasing to be" is occasionally in marvellous correspondence with what one has been. Her change from "activity to repose" was singularly befitting a person of the doctor's orderly ways and methodical habits. Never disabled by bodily infirmity or wasted by protracted sickness, with her life mortal blended almost imperceptibly with the life immortal. By some this co-called "sudden death" is regarded only as a ready willing response to the call of the Master, "Arise, my love and come away!"

raster
165

    DR. SUSAN S. (McKINNEY) STEWARD
  --  Born, Brooklyn, N. Y., 1848
  --  Died, Wilberforce, Ohio, 1918   Table of Contents     KNOW YE NOT THAT A GREAT WOMAN HATH
  --  FALLEN THIS DAY IN ISRAEL?
  --  Address of Miss Hallie Q. Brown on the occasion of the death
  --  Doctor Susan Maria Steward at Wilberforce, Ohio, March 7, 1918
.