Black and white portrait of Dr. Sarah Loguen-Fraser.

A portrait of Dr. Sarah Loguen-Fraser. Photo courtesy of Department of Historical Collections, Health
Sciences Library, SUNY Upstate Medical University.

Sarah Marinda Loguen-Fraser’s (1850-1933) household was anything but normal; her parents’ home functioned as a station for the Underground Railroad, where the family provided food, shelter and basic medical attention for fugitive slaves.1 As a young woman, Loguen-Fraser received medical training and learned healing techniques from her parents and nearby Iroquois women.2 Due to her experiences at a young age helping those who required medical attention, Loguen-Fraser made a vow that she “would never see a human being in need and not be able to help.”3

After many years of tutelage under her parents, Loguen-Fraser applied to and was admitted to the University of Syracuse College of Medicine.4 Upon graduating in the 1870s, Loguen-Fraser became the first woman to earn an M.D. from Syracuse and is believed to be the fourth African American woman to become a licensed physician in the U.S.5 Emerging from a family characterized by unwavering perseverance, ferocity and generosity, Sarah Marinda Loguen-Fraser accelerated in life due to a strong support system as well as a drive to never stop serving and providing for those that required assistance.

Black and white graduation photograph

Dr. Sarah Loguen-Fraser’s graduation ceremony at Syracuse University in the 1870s. Courtesy of SUNY Upstate Medical University.

In 1881, after working in both Philadelphia and Boston hospitals, Loguen-Fraser moved to Washington, D.C. to open a private medical practice.6 During this time, Fredrick Douglass, a close family friend, introduced Loguen-Fraser to her future husband, Dr. Charles Fraser.7 The two wed in 1882 and moved to Fraser’s plantation in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. The next year, Loguen-Fraser gave birth to her only child, a daughter named Gregoria.8 Her accomplishments did not end once she became a mother. She decided to learn Spanish and became the first woman doctor and pediatric specialist to the island.9 However, patriarchal dominance and segregation were still at play in Puerta Plata, which resulted in Loguen-Fraser facing heavy legal restrictions.10 Loguen-Fraser’s women patients, for example, were only allowed to receive medical attention if their fathers or husbands approved. Although these challenges threatened to thwart her progress, Loguen-Fraser was able to offer to patients free health care and treatments due to the financial stability established through her husband’s pharmacy.11

Sarah Marinda Loguen-Fraser became known as “Miss Doc” due to her humanitarian efforts and social standing in the country such that husband and wife grew to be prominent figures while living in Puerto Plata.12 After Dr. Charles Fraser’s death in 1894, Loguen-Fraser and Gregoria moved back to D.C. and sold the plantation in the Dominican Republic. After their return to the U.S., Loguen-Fraser noted the increased racism of the country’s legal system, particularly that many civil rights laws had either been ignored or repealed.13 D.C. had adopted segregation policies through all spheres of public life. Because of these political and social changes, Loguen-Fraser sent Gregoria to boarding school outside of Paris, France so she could retain normality throughout the remainder of her education.14


Black and white photograph of the interior of a pharmacy.

Dr. Charles Fraser and Dr. Sarah Loguen-Fraser’s pharmacy in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. Photo courtesy of Department of Historical Collections, Health Sciences Library, SUNY Upstate Medical Library.

In the following years, Loguen-Fraser continued to serve as much as possible before passing away on April 9, 1933 with Gregoria by her side.15 Today, Loguen-Fraser is revered as one of the most advantageous and prominent players in the progression of African American women in the work field. Although her accomplishments were well noted among communities in which she lived, records of her financial income and savings are difficult to find. This may be due to the factors that were constantly working against her as an African American woman entering into what was only known as a white male-led field.


Written by Melinda Nanovsky, English 344 taught by Gabrielle Foreman, University of Delaware, Spring 2014.

Edited by Sarah Patterson, Curator

  1. Alexander, Laura, Henry Buck, Khalym Burke-Thomas, Taylor Desgrosseilliers, Beth Dotten, Liz Douglass, Ashley Drake, Kristine Faulknham, Tommy Fiorentino, Alexandra Frankel, Kim Goral, Lindsey Haun, Adele Huffine, William Lee, Casey Mayer, Kelly Patel, Puja Patel, Greg Shelkey, Anola Stage, Grace Verrill, and Andrew Zenger. “Hobart and William Smith College.” HWS English Department.
  2. David Marc. “Fraser, Sarah Loguen,” American National Biography Online Feb. 2000.
  3. Staten, Candace. “Fraser, Sarah Loguen (1850-1933) | The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed.” Fraser, Sarah Loguen (1850-1933) | The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed.
  4. See note 2
  5. Luft, Eric. SUNY Upstate Medical University: A Pictorial History. North Syracuse: Gegensatz, 2009. Print.
  6. See note 3.
  7. See note 2.
  8. See note 1.
  9. See note 2.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid.
  12. See note 1 and 2.
  13. See note 1.
  14. See note 2.
  15. See note 3.