Side A: Ellamae Simmons, born and raised in Mount Vernon, became the first African American woman physician to specialize in asthma, allergy, and immunology in the country. Graduating in the top of her high school class, she dreamed of attending Ohio State University to become a nurse but was rejected as that program “did not have the facilities for training” the young black girl. Whenever Simmons encountered a barrier in life she refused to accept rejection, tenaciously steered the course of her own life, and blazed new trails for others. She ultimately earned degrees in nursing (Hampton, 1940), pre-med biological sciences (OSU, 1948), social work (OSU, 1950), and medicine (Howard University, 1959). Dr. Simmons again broke gender and racial barriers when hired by Kaiser Permanente in 1965. She practiced there until retiring in 1989. Simmons died aged 101.
Side B: Dr. Simmons also pioneered the integration of the military as well as campus and residential housing. In the Army Nurse Corps during WWII, she was one of eight African American nurses posted to Fort Des Moines, Iowa, to integrate the Army base and hospital. Nursing soldiers regardless of race, she paved the way toward dismantling segregation throughout the US armed forces. When later accepted to OSU’s pre-med program but told she could not be housed on campus, she persisted, and integrated the Columbus dorms. Growing up in her Mount Vernon family’s East Pleasant Street house–they owned at a time when less than a quarter of black Americans did–Simmons was taught to value home ownership. She integrated San Francisco’s prestigious Presidio Heights in the 1960s and then joined the Mutual Real Estate Investment Trust to promote housing integration.