In 1856, before the Civil War, Dr. William J. Baker, with assistance from a few others including his suffering patient, hurried medical science along a bit by performing one of the first hysterectomy surgeries in the United States here on Gay Street.
Of that historic team of four surgeons, the youngest is the one best remembered today. Knoxvillians may recognize the name, even if they don’t remember right away where they’ve seen it. It’s the name of “Our Beloved Physician,” memorialized with the stout marble arch at the Knox County Courthouse corner of Gay Street and Main Street. At 23, Dr. John Mason Boyd was the youngest of the team that performed surgery on an African American woman named Matilda.
But Matilda’s story doesn’t end there. She lived 34 more years and there’s much more to tell…
Written by Jack Neely and read by Chrissy Keuper. Sound design and editing by Pete Carty. Theme song composed by Mike Stallings.
This episode is funded in part by federal award number 21.027 awarded to the City of Knoxville by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Arts & Culture Alliance.
Knoxville Chronicles is brought to you by the nonprofit Knoxville History Project.
Learn more at KnoxvilleHistoryProject.org