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Women of the West Story Archive

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Two Strikes: The Justina Ford Story

by Fiona Potter, Los Angeles, CA

Dr. Justina Ford was born Justina Warren in Knoxville, Illinois in 1871. Ford came from a large family and her mother was a nurse. As a child, Ford remembered that she liked to play “doctor” with her siblings, and she enjoyed ministering to imaginary ailments, as well as sick neighbors.

After marrying Reverand John Ford I 1892, Ford moved to Chicago, where she studied obstetrics, pediatrics, and gynecology at the Herring Medical School. She interned at the State Hospital in Normal, Alabama, but looked forward to working in a place where an African American might play a fuller role in community life.

Eventually, the Fords moved to the Five Points neighborhood of Denver, Colorado. Five Points came to be known for its African American presence, although during the time of the Ford’s arrival it was also home to many immigrants. Barred from the Colorado Medical Association and the right to practice in Denver hospitals, Ford created a bustling business from her home. Although she separated from Reverend Ford in 1915, she continued to work in Denver, eventually remarrying to Alfred Allen. During her decades-long career, Ford estimated she delivered some 7000 babies from all kinds of backgrounds. Two years before her death, in 1952, Ford was finally granted admission to the American Medical Assoication and honored for her service to Denver’s working class communities by the Cosmopolitan Club. Her home is the Black American West Museum.

 

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