In 1921, Sadie Tanner Mossel Alexander graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and became the first Black woman in America to earn a Ph.D. in Economics. She was a Francis Sergeant Pepper fellow, and had already earned her Master’s degree from the same institution.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, her family was well-educated despite having to live in a time of intense racism and discrimination. For example, her father, Aaron Albert Mossell II, was the first African-American to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
Sadie herself also went on to make even more history that inspires women all over the world until this day. In 1923, she became the the first African-American woman admitted to the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and in 1927, she was admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar, specializing in family and state law and was active in civil rights law as well.
In 1928, she became the first African-American woman appointed as Assistant City Solicitor for the City of Philadelphia. She later worked for a major law firm until her retirement in the 1980’s.
Sadly, in November 1989, she died from complications from Alzheimer’s disease.