Bowie, Anna Mary (1890–1980)

By: Paula Summerly

Type: Biography

Published: January 31, 2020

Updated: March 30, 2020

Anna Mary Bowie, physician, director of the pathological laboratory and adjunct professor of clinical medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch, daughter of Walter Bowie and Eugenia Farley (Miller) Bowie, was born on November 12, 1890, in Nashville, Tennessee. She graduated from Nashville’s Fogg High School in 1908 and held teaching positions in Davidson County schools (1908–10). After earning a licentiate of instruction certificate from George Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville, Tennessee (1911), she taught English at Blue Mountain College, Mississippi, from 1912 to 1913. In 1913 she was awarded a bachelor of science degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville and then taught biology at the Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute in Montevallo, Alabama, for two years.

In 1915 Bowie entered the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. While studying for the medical degree she served as an instructor in pathology and worked alongside Marie Charlotte Schaefer and Violet Hannah Keiller. After earning an M.D. in 1920, Bowie briefly served as an intern at the Woman’s Hospital in Tennessee. She returned to her position as instructor in the Department of Pathology at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. On August 23, 1920, while completing an autopsy on the ninth victim to die during an outbreak of bubonic plague, Bowie was accidentally infected by the bacteria Yersinia pestis following a needle-stick injury to her gloved left index finger. After receiving anti-plague serum and Haffkine’s vaccine, she returned to work in the pathology laboratory four weeks later. With her colleague, pathologist Henry Charles Hartman, Bowie coauthored an article titled “Postmortem Findings in Twelve Cases of Plague,” which was published in the February 18, 1922, issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

After serving as an intern at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, Bowie took on the following positions: director of the pathological laboratory at John Sealy Hospital (1923–24), adjunct professor of medicine at UTMB, visiting assistant physician, and an assistant in the medical clinic of John Sealy Hospital (1924–25). She returned to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1925 and took the position of school physician at Peabody College (1925–43). She also served as Visiting Assistant in Clinical Gynecology at Vanderbilt University from 1928 to 1943.

Bowie gave occasional public lectures including: “Women in Science” and “Neurotic Tendencies in Normal People.” She was a member of the American Medical Association, the Tennessee Medical Association, and the Davidson County Medical Society. In 1943 Anna Bowie resigned from Peabody College and set up a private medical practice from her home in Nashville, Tennessee. She also served as a physician in the Department of Medicine and Surgery at the Veteran’s Administration.

In 1954 Bowie and her siblings purchased the first large tract of badly eroded farmland in Fairview, Tennessee, and rehabilitated it, which included the planting of some 500,000 tree seedlings (primarily loblolly and white pine). The land was donated in 1988 by her sole surviving sister, Evangeline “Van” Bowie, to the city of Fairview and was renamed Bowie Nature Park (1992). In an interview published in the March 23, 1969, edition of the Nashville Tennessean, Bowie recounted her experience of surviving bubonic plague. In 1970 she was awarded a Golden Anniversary certificate from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston to recognize her fifty years of service.

Anna Mary Bowie, who never married, died at the age of ninety on April 16, 1980, in Nashville. She donated her body to Vanderbilt’s School of Medicine. In 2015 she was featured in the exhibit Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives @UTMB at UTMB’s Moody Medical Library.

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Bowie Collection, Williamson County Archives, Franklin, Tennessee. Eileen Brogan, Bowieland (Fairview, Tennessee: Friends of Bowie Nature Park, 2008). Friends of Bowie Nature Park Inc.: History (, accessed January 28, 2020. Galveston Daily News, February 1, 1925. Henry Hartman, M.D., and Anna Bowie, M.D., “Postmortem Findings in Twelve Cases of Plague,” The Journal of the American Medical Association 78 (February 18, 1922). Bess McCann, Faculty of George Peabody College 1914–1936 (M. A. thesis, George Peabody College for Teachers, 1936). Nashville Tennessean, November 29, 1936; March 23, 1969; April 17, 1980. The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston: A Seventy-five Year History (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967). “Women’s History Month Exhibit Highlights UTMB women, past and present,” Impact newsletter, The University of Texas Medical Branch, March 9, 2015 (, accessed January 28, 2020.

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Paula Summerly, “Bowie, Anna Mary,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 03, 2022,

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January 31, 2020
March 30, 2020

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