[Portrait of Two Japanese Women Doctors, Dr. Kaku Sudo and Dr. Hana Abe, Trained in the United States (Cabinet Card)]. Charles E. Smith.
[Portrait of Two Japanese Women Doctors, Dr. Kaku Sudo and Dr. Hana Abe, Trained in the United States (Cabinet Card)]

Rare 19th Century Photo of a Japanese American Woman Doctor

[Portrait of Two Japanese Women Doctors, Dr. Kaku Sudo and Dr. Hana Abe, Trained in the United States (Cabinet Card)]

Notes: A double portrait of Dr. Kaku Sudo (1861–1963), the first Japanese American woman physician, and her colleague Dr. Hana Abe (1873–1922). The two Japanese women studied medicine at Laura Memorial College in Cincinnati in the mid-1890s. This photograph was used as the basis of an illustration in the Chicago Tribune (Sept. 13, 1897) about a talk Sudo and Abe gave at the First Presbyterian Church. The two doctors spoke about their conversion to Christianity and their medical training. They also demonstrated aspects of Japanese culture and played Japanese instruments.

Sudo's father was a samurai, which may explain the swords in the foreground. Their sponsor, another woman physician, the missionary Dr. Adeline Kelsey, sold two suits of samurai armor to the Cincinnati Art Museum to raise funds for Sudo and Abe's education.

After earning their medical degrees in 1896, Sudo and Abe returned to Japan and opened a Christian missionary hospital. They returned to the US in 1902. Sudo is listed as practicing medicine in the New York census. She and Abe and Dr. Kelsey also ran a dairy farm in New York state with extended family. In the 1920s, Kelsey and Sudo retired to Florida. In her 90s, Sudo obtained US citizenship and she died in Florida in 1963 at 102 years of age. The details of Dr. Abe's final years is not known to this cataloguer. Her birth and death dates are taken from the gallery guide to the Cincinnati Museum of Art's Masterpieces of Japanese Art exhibit in 2015.

Based on the attribution in the Chicago Tribune, Sudo is probably the standing figure in the picture.

Albumen silver print, 3-7/8 by 5-1/2 inches on a larger white mount, with the photographer's name and address in gilt below.

Edition + Condition: An excellent contrast photo in fine condition. Signed in English and Japanese by Sudo and Abe on the back (verso) of the photograph.

Publication: Evanston, IL: Charles E. Smith, (ca. 1897).

Item No: #308166

Price: $1,250