Anna Louise James: A Pioneer African-American Female Pharmacist

Author: Amber Pharmacy Anna Louise James

In recognition of Black History Month, Amber Pharmacy is featuring the men and women who broke barriers, became pioneers in the pharmacy profession and inspired future generations to follow in their footsteps. Learn more about Anna Louise James, an African-American pharmacist who served patients from her pharmacy in Connecticut for over five decades.

Born January 19, 1886, Anna Louise James made history as one of the first African-American female pharmacists and the first African-American woman to graduate from the Brooklyn College of Pharmacy.

Anna was the daughter of a Virginia plantation slave who escaped to Connecticut. When other kids were playing games, Anna focused on her education. As a child, she was committed to learning, reading and schooling.

Working at Lane Pharmacy

Anna’s brother-in-law, Peter Lane, established the first pharmacy in Old Saybrook, Connecticut in 1895. Peter was one of the first African-American pharmacists in the state. His store, which included a soda fountain, was a popular destination for local children and adults alike. In 1902, Anna began working at the Lane Pharmacy where she saw firsthand how Peter helped bring healing and wellness to the townspeople.

A Pioneer in the Pharmacy Profession

With her strong education and her pharmacy experience, Anna was accepted to the Brooklyn College of Pharmacy in New York. In 1908 at the age of 22, Anna became the first African-American woman to graduate from the college. A pioneer in the pharmacy profession, Anna returned home with her new pharmacy degree to serve the people of Connecticut.

Now a pharmacist, Anna rejoined her brother-in-law at Lane Pharmacy. Anna lived and worked at the pharmacy alongside Peter until 1917. When Peter got called away to fight World War I, he left the pharmacy to Anna. Anna took over pharmacy operations and changed the name to James Pharmacy. Known locally as “Miss James,” Anna ran her pharmacy until her retirement in 1967.

Anna Louise James lived in the back of her pharmacy until her death in 1977 at the age of 91. In 1994, James Pharmacy received recognition on the National Register of Historic Places.

Anna’s accomplishments as one of the first female African-American pharmacists in the country have inspired countless others to pursue this rewarding, life-giving career.

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