Dickens, Helen Octavia

Variant names

Hide Profile

Helen Octavia Dickens was born in Dayton, Ohio, to Charles and Daisy (Green) Dickens on February 21, 1909. She was a 1934 graduate of the University of Illinois School of Medicine, the only African-American woman in her graduating class. She spent two years after graduation at Provident Hospital in Chicago, and then practiced with Dr. Virginia Alexander in a birthing-home practice in North Philadelphia.

Dickens saught further training in obstetrics and gynecology, spending a year at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Medicine. Dickens passed the board examinations in 1945, becoming the first female African-American board-certified Ob/gyn in Philadelphia. That year, Dr. Dickens became Director of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Mercy Douglass Hospital in Philadelphia. In 1951, Dr. Dickens joined the courtesy staff of Women's Hospital and would later be named chief of obstetrics and gynecology. When the University of Pennsylvania took over the Women's Hospital in 1956, Dr. Dickens became a member of the staff and faculty in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of the School of Medicine.

One of her special interests was aiding pregnant teenagers. In 1967, Dickens founded the Teen Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania for school-age mothers in the inner city. The clinic's services included counseling and group therapy, educational classes, family planning assistance, and prenatal care. Another of Dickens's interests was cancer education and services.

Helen O. Dickens died on 2 December 2001 at the age of 92 and was survived by her daughter Jayne Brown.

From the description of Papers, 1934-1994. (University of Pennsylvania). WorldCat record id: 122614736

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Dickens, Helen Octavia. Papers, 1934-1994. University of Pennsylvania, Archives & Records Center
referencedIn Medical College of Pennsylvania. Black Women Physicians Project. Interviews, 1988-1989 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Fellowship Commission. Photographs, 1946-1985 (Inclusive Dates). Temple University Libraries, Paley Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith American Medical Women's Association. corporateBody
associatedWith Association of American Medical Colleges. corporateBody
associatedWith Devereux Foundation. corporateBody
associatedWith Fellowship Commission. corporateBody
associatedWith Marriage Council of Philadelphia. corporateBody
associatedWith Medical College of Pennsylvania. Black Women Physicians Project. corporateBody
associatedWith National Association of Medical Minority Educators, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Pan American Medical Women's Association. corporateBody
associatedWith University of Pennsylvania. Office of Minority Affairs. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Minorities in medicine
Teenage pregnancy
Women in medicine


Birth 1909-02-21

Death 2001


Permalink: http://n2t.net/ark:/99166/w67h4d7s

Ark ID: w67h4d7s

SNAC ID: 4508194