Monday Ms. Stories focuses on the women of Onondaga County’s past that many may have either forgotten, haven’t heard of, or don’t know much about. Today, we’ll learn about Sarah Loguen Fraser.
Born in 1850, Sarah Loguen Fraser was one of Reverend Jermaine Wesley and Caroline Storum Loguen’s eight children. Reverend Wesley had escaped from slavery in 1834 and played a key role in the local Underground Railroad with his wife. Inspired by this and educated at the AME Zion church school, Sarah gained medical experience by helping many fugitive slaves who were either injured or sick. After the death of her mother and father, she enrolled at Syracuse University Medical College. In 1876, Sarah graduated from medical school, becoming only the fourth African American woman doctor in the United States and the first woman to receive her M.D. degree from SUNY Upstate.
After graduating, Sarah worked at the New England Hospital for Women and Children until moving to be with her older sister in Washington D.C. There Dr. Sarah Loguen established a private medical practice and in 1882 married Dr. Charles Fraser in Syracuse. As Dr. Charles Fraser was a wealthy pharmacist and plantation owner from the Dominican Republic, both he and Sarah moved to Santo Domingo to live and practice. Dr. Sarah Fraser studied Spanish and passed the exam to practice medicine, becoming the Dominican Republic’s first woman doctor and first pediatric specialist. Alongside her husband’s prosperous pharmacy, she had a thriving medical practice despite being limited to treating women and children.
Dr. Sarah Fraser died in 1933 at her Washington, D.C. home with her daughter, Gregoria, at her side. Although she had not lived in Syracuse for twenty-five years, an obituary appeared in the Syracuse Journal. When news of her death reached the Dominican Republic, President Rafael Trujillo declared a nine-day period of national mourning with flags flown at half-staff.
In 2000, SUNY Upstate Medical University recognized the 150th anniversary of Loguen’s birth by creating a scholarship and annual lecture in her name. A portrait of Loguen commissioned by the medical school’s alumni association was unveiled and hung in a place of honor in the Health Sciences Library. The city of Syracuse renamed a street adjacent to the medical school’s hospital “Sarah Loguen Place” and the State of New York placed a historical marker at the site to recognize the significance of her graduation. In 2008, Upstate Medical University also opened the Dr. Sarah Loguen Center in downtown Syracuse.