Nancy Elizabeth Talbot Clark 1825 – 1901 sister of homeopath Israel Tisdale Talbot and the aunt of Marion Talbot was the fourth woman to graduate in medicine in America, and the first woman to graduate from the Cleveland Medical College Western Reserve (the second allopathic medical school to graduate a woman) in 1852.
In November, 1850, two women, Nancy Talbot Clark and Eliza Brown of Cleveland, enrolled as students at the CMC. No exceptions or changes were made in the curriculum and the women were allowed to compete on an equal basis with the male medical students….
The first woman to matriculate and graduate from the Medical Department of Western Reserve College was Nancy Talbot Clark of Sharon, Massachusetts. Coming from an established New England family, Nancy Talbot married Dr. Champion Clark of Baltimore in 1845. Twenty-three year old Nancy was widowed in 1848 when her husband and infant daughter died of typhus.
She and her brother, Israel Tisdale Talbot, read medical texts together and studied with a preceptor. Needing a means to support herself, Nancy Clark appealed to Dr. John Delamater, Dean of the CMC for permission to enter medical school in Cleveland…
The enrollment of Nancy Elizabeth Clark, the first woman to graduate from the CMC, was recorded briefly in the Registrar’s Book in the year 1850. She declared Sharon, Massachusetts her home and named the Dean, Dr. Delamater, as her Preceptor. This latter reference indicates the Dean’s support of women students from the beginning.
The Talbot family were descendants of the Earl of Shrewsbury who immigrated to America in 1675. Nancy married at age 20 but lost her husband and infant daughter in a typhoid epidemic. She returned to teaching but wanted to study medicine, so she enrolled in the Cleveland Medical College Western Reserve College and graduated in 1852.
When her application to join the Massachusetts Medical Society was refused in 1852, Nancy and her younger brother Israel Tisdale Talbot went to Europe, and on returning to America, Nancy married Amos Binney and had six children. Nancy opened a free dispensary in Charles Street, Boston.
Nancy Talbot Clark was a friend of Elizabeth Blackwell, who spent the night at Nancy’s house before she left to visit Europe. In Europe herself, Nancy studied medicine in Paris, much disparaged by her ‘friend’ Elizabeth Blackwell and her sister Emily Blackwell.
Nancy’s rejection by the Massachusetts Medical Society sparked twenty years of debate over women physicians, and resulted in the homeopaths forming the Massachusetts Homeopathic Medical Society which did admit women. Israel Tisdale Talbot was a driving force in this, and he also ensured that women were admitted to the Homeopathic Colleges.
Nancy Talbot Clark’s autobiography Dr. Nancy E. (Talbot) Clark: The Second Woman Graduate in Medicine… was written by herself and Frederick Clayton Waite.