Dr. Sophia Bethena Jones

Dr. Sophia Bethena Jones was a Canadian born physician and Canada’s first black woman to earn a medical degree. She was born in Chatham, Ontario, one of the northern termini of the Underground Railroad into Canada. A sizeable population there were Blacks that escaped from slavery. While not much is known of her upbringing, her parents were abolitionists, and this is likely why she was interested in reducing the barriers for women in medicine. She attended Wilberforce Collegiate Institute before completing her BS in Biology at the University of Toronto (UT) in 1879. Unfortunately, she was not accepted into the University of Toronto’s Medical School due to the dual challenge of being Black and a woman but was accepted into to the University of Michigan Medical School (UMich) where obtained her MD (1885).

She was the first Black woman to graduate from the University of Michigan Medical School, as well as the first Black woman of Canadian nationality to receive a medical degree. This would not be the last time that she would make history. She became the first Black woman on faculty at Spelman College (Spelman) in 1885, and she played an instrumental role in the development of Spelman’s Nursing Program. Later she would teach at Wilberforce University (WU) and published “Fifty Years of Negro Public Health”, one of the first publications in medicine by a Black woman. She later was the Resident Physician at the Agricultural and Mechanical College in North Carolina, which later became a part of the University of North Carolina system. She would later pass away in 1932 after 30 years of serving the medical community.


  1. https://www.spelman.edu/about-us/news-and-events/our-stories/stories/2020/04/08/sophia-jones-ludie-clay-andrews
  2. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1011916
  3. https://jbhe.com/2023/10/sophia-bethena-jones-canadas-first-black-woman-to-earn-a-medical-degree/ 
  4. https://www.missinformed.ca/post/a-feature-on-dr-sophia-b-jones
  5. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/underground-railroad