Charlotte Johnson Baker

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Dr. Charlotte Johnson Baker
Charlotte Johnson Baker from American Women, 1897.jpg
from American Women: Fifteen Hundred Biographies with Over 1,400 Portraits v.1. F. Willard & M. Livermore, eds. (1897).
Born(1855-03-30)March 30, 1855
DiedOctober 31, 1937(1937-10-31) (aged 82)
Alma materVassar College
University of Michigan
Scientific career
InstitutionsSt. Joseph's Hospital

Dr. Charlotte Johnson Baker (March 30, 1855 – October 31, 1937) was the first woman physician to practice medicine in San Diego, California. She practiced obstetrics and gynecology at St. Joseph's Hospital, where her husband, Fred Baker, MD, was a general practitioner. The Bakers were the first husband-and-wife physicians in San Diego.


She was born Charlotte Le Breton Johnson in Newburyport, Massachusetts on March 30, 1855. She graduated from Newburyport High School in 1872, and after a year teaching, she attended Vassar College in 1873. During this time she was an instructor in gymnastics. She graduated from Vassar in 1877 with a Bachelor of Arts. In the fall of 1879, she attended the medical department of the University of Michigan; she received her M.D. in 1881. She returned home to Newburyport, then married Dr. Frederick "Fred" Baker (29 January 1854 – 16 May 1938) on March 30, 1882. In that year they moved to Akron, Ohio, where they practiced medicine, before moving to Socorro, New Mexico, where their two children, Mary Caroline, and Robert Henry, were born. In January 1888, the Baker family moved to San Diego, California, where she and her husband became successful physicians, settling in Roseville in the Point Loma area. In that year she also received an A.M. from Vassar College for special work in optics and ophthalmology done after graduation.[1][2] She was the first woman elected president of the San Diego County Medical Society.[3]

Political activism[edit]

Baker was a noted suffragist and one of two civic-minded women who spearheaded the San Diego Women's Vote Amendment campaign. She worked to eliminate prostitution and advocated a shorter workweek for laborers.[4] She favored women's suffrage, and identified herself with Woman's Christian Temperance Union and many other movements for advancing women individually, socially and politically.[1] She also served as president of the San Diego Equal Suffrage Association. For the San Diego Women's Vote Amendment campaign, she and other supporters campaigned at Allen's decorated automobile for a tour of San Diego's back country. They spoke from benches while the people ate their lunches, in Oceanside. They made their way through Escondido, Fallbrook, and Ramona, while presenting their views and distributing literature. They believed that women would feel valued if they knew their opinions were valued.[5] When the amendment came to a vote in the state of California the outcome looked bleak. When reporters asked Baker for her opinion on the outlook of the amendment, she replied:

"I haven't lost hope, but I'm not going down to register in the morning. I am very much gratified at the showing made by San Diego both city and county. Indeed the city surpassed my most sanguine expectations. The result here is far better than what it was in the election of fifteen years ago. The returns from the state at large have afforded many surprises. In some cases, I have been agreeably disappointed; in others, quite the reverse. Thus, while I am a little disappointed made by the showing of Los Angeles, I am surprised that San Francisco did not do worse. Again, while I thought that we would carry Santa Barbara, I did not expect that we would get a majority in Fresno. At all events, I am not giving up at this hour by any means. The vote so far announced has been mostly from the larger communities, while our greatest strength seems to lie in the rural regions. The lead against us is not so great but that it may be overcome."

On October 16, almost one week after the election, Baker received a phone call from the City Clerk telling her to go ahead and register. She did so and had herself and three other women sworn in as deputies so they could begin registering others.[6]

Charlotte Baker

Positions held[edit]

  • President of the Equal Suffrage Association[4]
  • First woman President, San Diego County Medical Society, 1898[1]
  • Vice president of the Southern California Medical Society[4]
  • President of the San Diego County Women's Christian Temperance Union[1]
  • Co-founder of the San Diego Y.W.C.A. and president for three years[4]
  • Legislative chairman of League of Social Workers.[1]
  • Member of the Anti-Tuberculosis Society, the Children's Home, Associated Charities, and the Joint Commission for Welfare of Working Women and Girls.[4]
  • President of Point Loma Assembly (woman's club).[4]


Baker was inducted into the San Diego Women's Hall of Fame in 2009,[7] hosted by the Women's Museum of California, Commission on the Status of Women, University of California, San Diego Women's Center, and San Diego State University Women's Studies.

Her diaries and papers are maintained in the document collections of the San Diego History Center.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d e Frances Elizabeth Willard; Mary Ashton Rice Livermore, eds. (1897). American women: fifteen hundred biographies with over 1,400 ... p. 46. Retrieved January 30, 2012.
  2. ^ Frances Elizabeth Willard; Mary Ashton Rice Livermore, eds. (1897), American women: fifteen hundred biographies with over 1,400 portraits, 1, New York: Mast, Crowell & Kirkpatrick, p. 46, OCLC 1133808, OL 24592253M
  3. ^ "About". San Diego County Medical Society. Retrieved 31 May 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Leonard, John William (1914). Woman's who's who of America: a biographical dictionary of contemporary women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915. The American Commonwealth Co. pp. 68.
  5. ^ Robens, Alma Kathryn (1992). Charlotte Baker : first woman physician and community leader in turn of nineteenth-century San Diego (Thesis). San Diego State University.
  6. ^ Kneeland, Marilyn (1977). "THE MODERN BOSTON TEA PARTY THE SAN DIEGO SUFFRAGE CAMPAIGN OF 1911". The Journal of San Diego History. 4. 23. Retrieved January 30, 2012.
  7. ^ “Charlotte Baker M.D.” Women’s Museum of California, 2009. Archived 2014-11-01 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ "Guide to the Charlotte Baker Diary Collection MS 173". San Diego History Center. Retrieved 2 June 2015.