(PSEUDONYM: COUSIN ANN,
DECEMBER 1, 1813-APRIL 18, 1872)
Dr. Ann Preston was the first of five Quaker women to enroll in the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania when it opened in October 1850 (Bacon 20). Having watched her mother and sisters suffer from illnesses that led to their deaths, Preston grew interested in women’s health (Fullard 9). After serving a two-year apprenticeship under Dr. Nathaniel R. Moseley, she applied to medical school in 1849, but was rejected because she was a woman (Bacon 21; Stille 22). The following year the Quakers opened the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania and Preston enrolled. By 1853, she became professor of hygiene and physiology, and in 1866 she became the college’s dean, which allowed her to champion women becoming physicians despite staunch opposition (Bacon 20; Fullard 9; Wells, “Women” 179). Interestingly, this woman who spent her life advocating for women wrote a children’s book, Cousin Ann’s Stories for Children (1849), which includes poems defending African Americans’ right to freedom.
Preston’s abolitionist views most likely stemmed from her upbringing and affiliations with the Society of Friends in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Born in West Grove, Pennsylvania, Preston was the daughter of Margaret Smith Preston and Amos Preston, a Quaker minister. Both of her parents supported the abolitionist and women’s rights movements (Bacon 21). According to Joyce Fullard, “Her father’s farm adjoined that of his brother, Mahlon Preston, a Quaker minister, and both men frequently helped fugitive slaves, using their homes as supplementary stations [on the Underground Railroad]” (9). Following in her parents’ footsteps, Preston “acquired a belief in the need for social action to alleviate the misfortunes of others” (Fullard 9). She is “famous for disguising an escaped slave as a Quaker grandmother and driving her past patrollers”