Dr. Thelma Patten Law was one of the first women to work as a doctor in the state of Texas, and owns the honor of being Houston’s first Black female physician. Dr. Patten Law’s career was in service of working class and poor Blacks who could not afford healthcare or were refused it based on racist policies of the day.
Thelma Adele Patten Law was born December 30, 1900 in Hunstville, Texas. The future healthcare pioneer entered Howard University earning both her undergraduate and medical degrees. While at the institution, Patten Law became a charter member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority. After interning at Washington’s Freedman’s Hospital, she returned to Houston in the ’20’s and hung out her physician’s shingle.
During her 25 years of in practice, Law was also connected to another historic figure . She helped in the birth of the late Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan in Houston in the 1936. Jordan became the first Black woman to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction, and the first Black woman politician from the South to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Despite her educational credentials, Patten Law had some struggles as were expected in the South. Her services were often the only care poor citizens in the city could afford and as an OB/GYN practitioner, Patten Law’s expertise filled an important need. In Houston’s Third Ward, Patten Law worked in less than favorable conditions but remained dedicated to her work and was seen as a leader in the Black community.
Patten Law married James H. Law, a teacher and coach at Wheatley High School in the HSID system. She passed in 1968.
PHOTO: Public Domain
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