This Day in History – December 17, 1920

Dr. Josephine English is born in Ontario, Virginia


On this day in 1920, Dr. Josephine English was born in Ontario, Virginia.

English grew up in New Jersey and received her B.A. in 1939 from New York City’s Hunter College. After graduating, she went on to continue her education at New York University, where she earned an M.A. in Psychology.

English then attended Meharry Medical School in Nashville, Tennessee, where she realized her interest in gynecology and obstetrics. In 1949, after graduating from medical school, English began working at a hospital in Manhattan, New York.

English moved to Brooklyn in 1956, opening a women’s clinic in the neighborhood of Bushwick two years later. In 1979, she founded the Adelphi Medical Center, and soon after, a senior citizens’ center. In 1981, she started an after school program as well as a summer youth camp. The following year, trying to bring more of the arts to Brooklyn, she purchased an abandoned church beside the Adelphi Medical Center and converted it into the Paul Robeson Theater.


Because of budget restrictions, English self-funded several of her programs. As a result, she was continuously fighting foreclosure. She is the first minority as well as the first woman to be awarded a license from the New York State Department of Health to develop a free-standing ambulatory surgical center.

English has been honored with several awards throughout the years, including the African Community Contribution Award and a Lucille Mason Rose Community Activist Award. In 1996, the Brooklyn community formed the Dr. Josephine English Foundation in honor of Dr. English and her contributions.

Dr. English died on the day after her 91st birthday, December 18, 2011.


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