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Sophia Presley

Sophia Presley (1834-1909) was an instructor of surgery, a director of the Camden Women’s club, and was a member of the Camden County Medical Society.

Born in 1834 in Ireland, Sophia Presley emigrated to New York with her mother, father, brother, and sister in 1850. Shortly after settling in the U.S., Presley’s mother died and the rest of the family relocated to Steubenville, Ohio. Presley graduated from the Granville Female Seminary in Ohio in 1860. She then entered the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1876 and graduated in 1879. Presley completed an internship at the Women’s Hospital in Philadelphia and was appointed instructor of surgery in 1880.

In 1881, Presley moved to Camden, New Jersey, and opened a private practice. Throughout her career in Camden, Presley worked to better her community. She served as a clinician of the West Jersey Orphanage for Destitute Colored Children. She also was a medical attendant at the Methodist Episcopal Home in Collingswood, New Jersey. Presley was also a member of the Young Women’s Christian Association and the Camden Women’s Club, of which she became the director in 1899. A monumental achievement in Presley’s career was her acceptance into the, traditionally, all-male Camden County Medical Society. After seven years of petitioning to become a member, Presley became the first woman to enter the society in 1890 and was elected its secretary in 1894 and 1895.

Presley lived in Camden for the rest of her life. On November 28, 1909, she passed away from heart disease at the age of 75. She never married or had children. Presley is buried in Harleigh Cemetery in Camden.


Questions to Explore

How was Presley Accepted into the all-male Camden County Medical Society? How did her peers receive her?

What started Presleys interest and journey in the medical field?

What are some things Presley did as a member of the Camden Women’s Club and the Young Women’s Christian Association?

Additional Resources

Burstyn, Joan N.. Past and Promise: Lives of New Jersey Women. United States: Syracuse University Press, 1997.

Journal of the Medical Society of New Jersey. United States: Medical Society of New Jersey., 1910.