Dr. Zenobia Gilpin — Serving Segregated Communities

As a Black female doctor in the Jim Crow South, Dr. Zenobia Gilpin (1898–1948) faced both sexism and racism—but still rose to national prominence. After graduating from Howard University Medical School in 1923, she dedicated her career to providing medical services to Richmond’s Black communities. In addition to her own practice, Dr. Gilpin developed a program of health clinics held at Black churches at a time when most city hospitals did not treat Black patients. This program became a model across the nation. She also spoke out about racial disparities in public health and held leadership positions in civic organizations, including the NAACP and Alpha Kapa Alpha Sorority. 


This article was featured in the Virginia Magazine of History & Biography, Vol. 128, No.2 in connection with the VMHC exhibition, Agents of Change: Female Activism in Virginia from Women’s Suffrage to Today

A newspaper photograph of Dr. Zenobia Gilpin
Dr. Zenobia Gilpin. (Virginia Museum of History & Culture, Mss1 G4275 a30)
A page from Dr. Gilpin's medical notebook
A specialist in women’s health—gynecology and obstetrics—Dr. Gilpin also practiced general medicine. Shown here is a page from her medical notebook in which she recorded information about a range of ailments and their treatments. (Virginia Museum of History & Culture, Mss1 G4275 a22)