Dr. Faye W. Allen
In 1951, Dr. Faye Watson Allen became the first African American female physician to practice medicine in Anne Arundel County, Maryland.
“Dr. Faye,” as she was affectionately known, practiced medicine when female physicians were still an anomaly.
Born in 1921, in Springfield, Ohio, she was the oldest of five children. Her great-grandparents were slaves, and one grandmother was from Ireland. The jazz singer and actress Nancy Wilson was a distant cousin. Her father, James Alexander Watson, was a World War I veteran; was listed in the 1930 census as a farm laborer and in 1942 draft records as working for a plumbing and heating company. Her mother, Nora Alice Johnson, was listed as divorced and working as a placement clerk in an employment agency in the 1940 census. “Dr. Faye” described her parents as “hard-working progressive landowners”. She recounts, “I got my work ethic from my father.” In various interviews, she describes the isolation and discrimination she encountered as one of the few African American students pursuing a dream to be the first Black Florence Nightingale: “We attended a one-room schoolhouse and we were the only Black students there. I finished high school in 2 years. I never graduated; I just went on to college when I got the credits I needed.”
Despite access issues encountered, she persevered attending multiple colleges before obtaining a nursing degree from Ohio State University. The day after she graduated from nursing school, she began summer school for premed studies. Working 40-hour weeks as a nurse to pay her living and college expenses, Dr. Faye received her medical degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C., and interned at Freedman’s Hospital, Washington D.C. in 1950. Following her graduation, she joined her husband, Dr. Aris T. Allen in his medical practice as a family physician, working side-by-side with him in their joint practice for three decades. “Dr. Faye” continued to practice as a family physician in Annapolis for over 34 years. After the Allens retired from their practice in 1982, she worked an additional eight years in the Anne Arundel County Health Department.
“Dr. Faye” was active in numerous professional, civic, community, social, and religious organizations, receiving numerous honors and awards. Through her 45-year marriage to Dr. Aris T. Allen, two sons were born, Aris T. Allen, Jr. and Lonnie Watson Allen. Her son, Aris T. Allen Jr. said of her, “I think she was somewhat of a pioneer and opened the doors for not only women but for African American women in the medical field.” After an incredibly full life, “Dr. Faye” passed away on December 14, 2008.