Downtown African American Heritage Signage Program

Mary Ellen Britton-
A Civil Rights Pioneer

Sign #11 545 N. Limestone Street

Dr. Mary Ellen Britton (1855 – 1925) was born in Lexington as a free person of color. Britton taught throughout central Kentucky, coming back to in Lexington in 1876. A great orator, her speeches on social reform were often published. In 1887, she gave a suffrage speech before the Kentucky Colored (sic) Teachers Association.“If woman is the same as man then she has the same rights, if she is distinct from man then she has a right to the ballot to help make laws for her government.”

She helped to establish the Colored Orphan Industrial Home (1892) and a nursery for the children of working women. Britton received her medical degree in 1903 and became the first licensed woman to practice medicine in Lexington. Mary Ellen Britton built this home in 1903, and it housed her medical practice until 1923. She continued to advocate until her death.

Mary Ellen Britton

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