Filed Under Healthcare

Gravesite of Dr. Consuelo Clark-Stewart

Pioneering physician with a tragic personal story

Consuelo Clark was born in Cincinnati in 1861. When he was 23, she graduated from the Boston University School of Medicine. She returned to Cincinnati and became the first African American woman licensed to practice medicine in Ohio.

In May 1890, Consuelo Clark married William R. Stewart of Youngstown, Ohio. Although William Stewart was only 22 years old and still a law student, he was described by the Cincinnati Commercial Gazette as “a leading colored attorney” of Youngstown.

Consuelo Clark married him over the objections of her parents. Her father was the great educator Peter H. Clark, and her mother was Frances Williams Clark. The Cincinnati Commercial Gazette for May 7, 1890, reports,

“The marriage was an extremely quiet one, as it is understood that the engagement was the result of an affaire du coeur that was not rapturously indorsed by the bride’s family, and it was therefore the desire of the parties mot interested to avoid as much publicity as possible.”

Consuelo Clark-Stewart and her husband moved to Youngstown (Mahoning County), where she became a popular physician and he was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives, serving from 1896 to 1899.

But Consuelo’s parents were right to have bad vibes about William R. Stewart. In September 1907, William R. Stewart had his wife Consuelo committed to the Ohio State Hospital for the Insane at Massillon. What were her symptoms? According to the Salem (Ohio) News for January 25, 1908, “Dr. Stewart was adjudged insane because of her repeated statements that her husband, W. R. Stewart, Mahoning County’s former negro state representative, had been abusing her. 

Consuelo’s sister Ernestine Clark Nesbitt travelled from St. Louis to Youngstown, where she spent two weeks collecting affidavits from doctors declaring that Consuelo Clark-Stewart was perfectly sane. Nesbitt then took these to Massillon and demanded her sister’s release.

These efforts seemed to be working: on February 1, 1908 the Cleveland Gazette reported that “Consuelo Clark Stewart of Youngstown” and “Mrs. Nesbitt of St. Louis” were staying at the home of their friend Mrs. John Brooks of Massillon.

At some point, however, Dr. Consuelo Clark-Stewart was returned to the Massillon State Hospital. She is recorded there in the census of 1910 (taken April 26), and her profession is listed as “inmate.” By the time this census was recorded, however, the hospital’s records were out-of-date: Consuelo Clark Steward had died two weeks earlier, on April 17, at the Youngstown City Hospital.

Clark-Stewart’s medical practice had been among the immigrant steelworkers in Youngstown, and her obituary in the Cleveland Gazette says this:

“The group which gathered around her coffin in her home was truly indicative of the life she had led … Greeks, Slavs, Roumanians, Russians, and Polish Jews gathered around her coffin and the Catholics, crossing themselves, muttered prayers for the repose of the soul that had pitied their sorrows.”

Clark-Stewart’s body was then shipped home to Cincinnati where she had a second funeral, attended by “scores of schoolmates and friends.” Her body was “laid to rest by the side of her mother” in the John S. Nesbitt lot, which is Section A, Lot 76. But there is no monument in this location for either Consuelo Clark-Stewart or for her mother, Frances Williams Clark.

William R. Stewart, by the way, became a longtime attorney in Youngstown. He was known as a man who “thrived on plain, hard work and little frivolity.” He eventually came to be regarded as “the gray-haired dean of the County Bar Association and one of its most respected members.”

In his last years, however, Williams R. Stewart became reclusive. After he died in April 1958 at the age of 93, his obituary reported that, “Last fall, a reporter from the Cleveland office of the Call and Post journeyed to Youngstown to interview the attorney. But he refused to see the reporter, as he had refused to see virtually anyone in recent times.”

Images

Consuelo Clark-Stewart as a medical student in Boston Source: Wikimedia Creator: Amory Nelson Hardy - cabinet card photograph

Location

Metadata

Chris Hanlin, “Gravesite of Dr. Consuelo Clark-Stewart,” Cincinnati Sites and Stories, accessed February 8, 2023, https://stories.cincinnatipreservation.org/items/show/77.