Charlotte Johnson Baker was San Diego’s first woman physician and the only woman president of the San Diego County Medical Society until 1987.She delivered about 1000 babies, proud that she never lost a mother in childbirth. She and her husband were also the first husband and wife physicians in San Diego.
Baker was born in 1855 in Newburyport, Massachusetts. After a time spent teaching and earning her bachelor’s at Vasser, Baker went on to the University of Michigan where she earned her medical degree in 1881. Seven years later she and her husband moved to San Diego where she became the cities first woman doctor.
Baker was more than just a doctor, though. She was also a noted political activist and women’s rights leader. Between 1888 and her death in 1936 she worked to eliminate prostitution, led the building of Balboa Park’s Children’s Home, helped found the San Diego Zoo, advocated a shorter work week for laborers, served on the City Civil Service Commission (and was president for 9 years), and co-founded San Diego YWCA.
Baker was most proud of her work trying to ensure the right to vote for the women of California. Baker was president of the San Diego Equal Suffrage Association and campaigned hard for women’s rights. She, along with other suffragists, traveled San Diego’s backcountry in an automobile where they passed out pamphlets and spoke on the importance of women’s right to vote.
Her hard work paid off and women got the right to vote in California on October on October 10, 1911. California was the sixth state to grant women the right to vote, and it was nine years before the 19th amendment would be passed. A week after California women got the vote, on October 16th Charlotte Baker registered to vote and helped other women register as well.