African American Trail Project Includes Wellesley’s First Black Alumna

A map of Massachusetts with  a figure of a woman.
Image credit: Photos Courtesy of the African American Trail Project
March 12, 2019

The African American Trail Project, whose newly launched website maps more than 200 African American and African-descended public history sites across Massachusetts, lists Wellesley College/Harriet Rice. She is an alumna of Wellesley class of 1887 and the College’s first black graduate.

The project was created by Tufts University faculty members Kerri Greenidge, director of the American Studies Program, and Kendra Field, interim director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy. 

Greenidge said Rice was a pioneer who “lived a storied life beyond Wellesley.”

After Wellesley, Rice, a native of Newport, R.I., went to medical school at the University of Michigan and the Women’s Medical College of the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, then interned at the New England Hospital for Women and Children.

She later worked at Hull House with social worker and suffragist Jane Addams, treating the poor in Chicago.

During World War I, Rice served in French military hospitals. (She had reportedly sought to join the American Red Cross, but was turned away because she was black.) The French embassy in Washington, D.C., awarded her the Medal of French Gratitude in 1919 for her care of wounded French soldiers.

For more information about Rice, see the American Medical Women’s Association and Eyes of Glory: A Woman of Valor.