Dr. J. Lillian McBride

The medical profession has mainly been dominated by men for most of its history, but Mansfield had at least two female physicians prior to 1900.  Dr. Julia Lillian McBride and Dr. Mary J. Finley were pioneers in their field and broke into a profession that was dominated by their male counterparts, but Dr. McBride’s decision to enter the medical field came at a horrible cost.


Dr. J. Lillian Mcbride

Julia Lillian Wheeler was born in 1865 possibly in Montgomery County, Ohio, but very little is known of her life prior to her getting married.  On January 15, 1886 she married Dr. Franklin E. McBride in Montgomery County, Ohio.  Franklin was the son of Washington McBride, a prominent farmer in Richland County.  In Graham’s History of Richland County (1880) it reads, Washington “was born in Monroe Township April 1, 1840.  Was married, in 1860, to Mary A. Swann; they had four children — Franklin E., William S., Lilly A. [and] Laura E.; Mrs. McBride died Jan. 22, 1873; Mr. McBride married again, Dec. 17, 1874, to Mary A. Au, who was born in Pennsylvania; they have two children — Margaret E. [and] Maria M. Mr. McBride is an intelligent man, and is a member of the Congregationalist Church.”  The following years would bring 8 more children for a total of 10 from his second marriage.  Washington died on November 18, 1907 and is buried on Odd Fellows Cemetery in Lucas, Ohio.


Franklin E. McBride and J Lillian Wheeler Marriage Record

It’s unclear how long Julia, or J Lillian, as she is referred to in most texts, and Franklin stayed in Ohio, but sometime in 1888-1889 they set sail from San Francisco to China as part of the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions.   According to the Harvard Library Archives, “The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was founded in 1810; the first organized missionary society in the United States. By the time of its centenary in 1910, the Board was responsible for 102 mission stations and a missionary staff of 600 in India, Ceylon, West Central Africa (Angola), South Africa and Rhodesia, Asiatic and European Turkey, four different regions in China, Japan, Micronesia, the Philippines, and the ‘Papal lands’ of Mexico, Spain and Austria.”[1]

The McBride’s were part of the North China Mission in Kalgan, in an almanac for the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions in 1887 it gave a description, saying “The North China Mission lies within the provinces of Chihli and Shantung. One station, Kalgan is on the border of Mongolia.  The Mission has seven stations, twenty-nine out-stations, fourteen ordained missionaries, two male physicians, two female physicians, sixteen wives of missionaries and three other women.”[2]

Tragedy struck in 1890 when Franklin died of typhus fever.  In The Missionary Herald for 1890 is says, “On July 31, a Telegram was received at the Mission Rooms from Shanghai, announcing the death of Dr. McBride, of Kalgan, July 6, of typhus fever.  It is hardly a year since Dr. McBride and his young wife sailed from San Francisco for North China, full of ardent hope for a life-service in that empire.“[3]  This was also recorded in the Richland Shield and Banner on August 9, 1890, saying “Washington McBride received the sad intelligence today that his son, Dr. F.E. McBride, died in China on the 6th of typhus fever. He was medical missionary to China, having been sent there by the American Board of Foreign Missions about a year ago. He was 28 years of age and a most promising young man.” Franklin’s body was returned home and he is buried next to his brother who had died two years earlier.

It’s obvious the work done in China had made an impact on J Lillian McBride.  She made her way to Philadelphia and received her diploma from the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania Tuesday, May 8, 1894.  After this she immediately returned to Mansfield and started her practice.  In the 1895-96 Mansfield, Ohio directory, J Lillian McBride is listed as a physician located at 53 W. Fourth St.  In 1897-98 she moved to 34 West Fourth St., then to 181 South Diamond around 1904, and finally to 46 West Third Street in 1908-09.  She practiced there until around 1920 or 1921.  The last mention of her in the local paper was April 21, 1921, saying she was moving to West Carrolton in Montgomery County, Ohio.


Advertisement in the 1908-09 Mansfield City Directory

In addition to being one of the first female physicians in the area, Dr. McBride was also an elected official in many of the medical organizations in the county, including secretary and treasurer of the North East Ohio Medical Society.  She was also the first woman to serve on the Mansfield Board of Education from 1911-1915.

For now, it’s unknown what happened to Dr. McBride after she left Mansfield, Ohio.  A family tree on Ancesty.com has her death listed as November 12, 1951, but no sources to verify this information.  Some further research through records in Montgomery County may turn up even more achievements for this woman, who was a pioneer in her field and, based on the other offices she held and boards she served on, a respected citizen of Richland County.

[1] http://oasis.lib.harvard.edu/oasis/deliver/~hou01467
[2] https://books.google.com/books?id=iocsAAAAYAAJ&dq=j+lillian+mcbride&source=gbs_navlinks_s
[3] https://books.google.com/books?id=JssWAQAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false


3 thoughts on “Dr. J. Lillian McBride

  1. She was my great, great (if I got that right) grandma. My family has artifacts from China she returned with after grandpa Franks death. At one time I remember stories of a whole human skeleton that was apparently given to a higher learning institution. My grandpa, Ralph, used to ask us kids if we wanted to “see the finger” and pulled a small glass vial out of the kitchen cabinet with a human finger in formaldehyde that contained a several inch fingernail all the way from China! I believe my uncle Ron still has the “finger”. The strangest part of all is that my mom is a Cantonese from Hawaii whom my dad married after WW2. All the Chinese stuff I had was from my Irish side!

    Ken McBride, Dayton, Oh


  2. Pingback: An Update on Dr. J Lillian McBride | The Sherman Room at MRCPL

  3. Pingback: Mansfield’s First Female Physician: Dr. Lina Fink | The Sherman Room at MRCPL

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