Women's Activism NYC

Andrea Evangelina Rodriguez Perozo

1879 - 1947

By: Lisbeth Mendoza | Date Added:

La Médica Dominicana /The First Dominican Doctor: Dr. Andrea Evangelina Rodriguez Perozo By Lisbeth Mendoza Dr. Perozo was born on November 10, 1879, in San Rafael de Yuma, into a very poor, humble family in the countryside. In 1902 she was the first woman to go to medical school and graduate in the Dominican Republic; this is such a big deal because she changed the role of women in the field of medicine and inspires others to pursue this career. In the Dominican Republic, there always has been a lot of machismo. Women were only allowed to be midwives or nurses because becoming a doctor was only available for men. I find it very interesting that there wasn’t enough information about this inspirational, strong, independent woman who helped to shape what today is the Dominican Republic. Not only was she a doctor at a time when the profession was heavily dominated by men, she also contributed to a lot of organizations that people do not realize she was actively involved with, offering medical counsel to single moms and local prostitutes. She should be recognized for that. This is why I decided to search deep into her biography and find out more about her story. Various sources that I read inform us primarily about her medical journey, such as that she enrolled in medical school in 1903 and graduated in 1911, but then she waited a few years to get her degree because of color discrimination and sexism. Dr. Perozo obtained her title in 1919 with the specialty of a gynecologist. After working as a gynecologist, she saved enough money to go to Paris and get a specialty in obstetrics and pediatrics. She later returned to the Dominican Republic in 1925 and opened her own office, an organization for women called “La Gota de Leche ("The Drop of Milk"). Dr. Perozo’s organization helped supply poor mothers with free formula milk for their babies. She also helped organize events for sex education and disease prevention, and she offered free pre and post-natal OB/GYN services to poor communities in the countryside. Although Dr. Perozo helped poor communities by creating organizations, she was getting a lot of backlash from the communities, specially the government. In one of her books called Granos de Polen translated as Grains of Pollen, she wrote, “because I do not have a husband, a man to protect me, they accuse me of being a lesbian. I get poison pen letters under my door. Even in the street when I pass by, people throw insults at me”. People were accusing her of being a “lesbian” because she didn’t rely on a man to be successful, she wasn’t a stay home mom, and she was not a wife, but she was more than that: she was an example to every woman as one who challenged the stereotype. Dr. Perozo fought against the Trujillo dictatorship, and for that, the dictator sent her to jail. While she was under arrest, she was raped multiple times and tortured. After she spent some time in jail, the police abandoned her on the road and left her there until she died. The press at the time barely mentioned her death since the dictatorship of Trujillo had marginalized her from Dominican society. She was excluded from medical recognition, removed from the Directory, and the Bibliographic Synthesis (a collection of research where doctors discuss possible new advancements in the field). For this reason, many people do not know her story. Yet, she deserves to be celebrated and remembered, which is why I choose to write the story of this honorable woman. I choose to honor this remarkable doctor because her grandnephew was my pediatrician at the time I got infected with Dengue virus (DENV). I spent weeks in the hospital in 2009, getting treatment while he told me stories about his aunt and how proud he felt to be a descendant of this legendary woman. I am Lisbeth Mendoza, a student at Hostos Community College, enrolled in WGS 100 with Professor Jerilyn Fisher, Spring 2020. Our class wrote biographies as our "Making a Difference" project, done in partnership with WomensActivism.NYC. WORKS CITED Huston, Perdita. Motherhood by Choice: Pioneers in Women’s Health and Family Planning. Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 1992, pp.16-18. priceless21. “Andrea Evangelina Rodriguez Perozo, M.D.” Forever Black Effusion, 17 Feb. 2013,foreverblackeffusion.wordpress.com/2013/02/07/andrea-evangelina-rodriguez-perozo-m-d/.

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