National Institute on Aging

School of Pharmacy at the University of Pittsburgh to Honor Its First Black Woman Graduate

Ella Nora Phillips was born in Stringtown, West Virginia, in 1893. She had planned to become a teacher but decided to marry Charles Phillips who was a chauffeur in Pittsburgh. The couple had a daughter who died from whooping cough. Then Phillips Myers applied to the School of Pharmacy at the University of Pittsburgh. But she was rejected. She persisted and eventually was admitted in 1914. In the classroom, White males had the first rows of seats, and they were followed, in descending order, by White females, then Jews, then Blacks. She graduated in 1916 and became the first Black woman to practice pharmacy in Pennsylvania.

Myers established a drugstore in Pittsburgh before marrying fellow Pitt pharmacy graduate William Stewart in 1920. She changed her name to Ella P. Stewart. After moving to Ohio, she became the first Black pharmacist and employee to work at Youngstown City Hospital. Later, she and her husband then opened Toledo’s first Black-owned and operated drugstore.

Now the University of Pittsburgh is recognizing Stewart by naming a conference room in her honor. A portrait of Stewart commissioned by the university will hang on a wall of the conference room.

Stewart died in 1987. Her papers and memorabilia are held in archives at the University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University. An elementary school in Toledo was named in her honor.



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