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One of two Black female doctors in South Carolina, Huldah Josephine Prioleau advocated for the health of Black women and their children

One of two Black female doctors in South Carolina, Huldah Josephine Prioleau advocated for the health of Black women and their children
July 2023
WRITER: 

She was born on July 4, 1866



Huldah Josephine Prioleau taught at the segregated Cannon Street Hospital, which was established in 1897 on the site of what is now the MUSC Women’s Health clinic.

July 4th is not just when we celebrate our national heroes and their stories. There are also local people worthy of recognition: Huldah Josephine Prioleau, for instance, who was born here on Independence Day, 1866. 

Not much is known about Prioleau’s parents or her childhood. She attended Avery Institute and graduated with a medical degree in 1904 from Howard University. Upon returning home, she taught at the segregated Cannon Street Hospital and was one of only two Black women doctors in the state. In her private practice, Prioleau paid special attention to Black mothers and babies, fighting for their health and standard of living. She also ensured there were playgrounds and services for Black youth. 

 Prioleau’s private practice and rental properties were on Spring Street (left); today a digital marketing agency occupies 92-A Spring Street (right).

Prioleau and her professional—and likely domestic—partner, registered nurse Beulah Crawford, created The House of the Better Baby, where Prioleau taught mothers how to care for their children in their 242 Rutledge Avenue home. Prioleau’s main office and rental properties were located at 92-94 Spring Street. In addition, she directed the local Colored Red Cross and its response to the needs of Black soldiers in World War I. 

The respect Prioleau demanded for her patients was accorded to her by most white leaders. Yet following her death on December 14, 1940, and her burial in the Unity and Friendship Cemetery, she has nearly been forgotten.