Elsie Smith was born on October 29, 1915 in Tullahoma,
Tennessee. She and her family came to Detroit
in the early 1920's in search of work. She attended
the Detroit Public Schools throughout her childhood
and graduated from Cass Technical High School
in 1933. Upon graduating, she entered a program
in social work at Wayne (now Wayne State) University.
In 1942, Mrs. Smith was hired as a clerk in the
office of Chief of Ordnance in the War Department
and served in this position until the end of World
War II. She was relocated and worked for the Veterans
Administration from the late 1940's until retiring
in the mid-1970's.
not directly associated with organized medicine
in any specific way, Mrs. Smith and her family
participated in the maintenance of health care
in the African American community. At a time when
many African Americans did not wish to go to a
hospital because of a belief that it was the place
where one went to die, her mother served the community
as an informal health advisor. She would assist
people through their illnesses, changing beds,
administering medicine, and assisting with meals.
Mrs. Smith's father was knowledgeable about various
folk remedies, including tea made from roasted
pig's hooves as a cure for pneumonia.
family was very much in touch with contemporary
health care professionals. The family lived in
the same neighborhood as Dr. Isaacs and Dr. Harry
M. Nuttall. Mrs. Smith was often sent to bring
the resident doctor to the home of sick neighbors.
Her mother thought very highly of Dr. Daisy Northcross's
medical skills. As is the case today, the use
of many home remedy treatments was a supplement
to, rather than a substitute for professional
Smith's community involvement includes membership
in the National Association for the Advancement
of Colored People (NAACP) and Eastern Star, a
closed, philanthropic organization of women.