Dr. Gantt was a pioneer in public health, prevention of tuberculosis, medical inspection of schools, and social hygiene.
Physician. Rosa Hirschmann Gantt was born on December 29, 1876, in Camden, the daughter of Solomon Hirschmann and Lena Debrena. Educated in Charleston’s public schools, she attended the Medical College of South Carolina (later Medical University of South Carolina) and in 1901 was one of the first two women to graduate from medical school in South Carolina.
After postgraduate work at the Aural and Ophthalmic Institute and New York Ear and Eye Hospital, she received the Certificate of the American Board of Ophthalmic Examiners. She was appointed resident physician at Winthrop College, and a year later became the first woman physician in Spartanburg. Specializing in eye, ear, nose, and throat, she maintained a busy practice for thirty-three years. On March 16, 1905, she married attorney Robert J. Gantt in Spartanburg.
Dr. Gantt was a pioneer in public health, prevention of tuberculosis, medical inspection of schools, and social hygiene. Before establishment of the Spartanburg County Health Department, she created a miniature health service, with herself as doctor. She was the only woman on the draft board during World War I and advanced to a position on the District Advisory Medical Board of Appeals. She served as acting surgeon for the United Public Health Service, a member of the Fosdick Committee of War Camp Community Service, and held a commission from the U.S. Department of Commerce as Medical Examiner of Air Pilots. As president of the Spartanburg branch of the American Medical Association, she served for nine years and in 1932 became president of the American Medical Women’s Association. Her efforts contributed to building Spartanburg General Hospital (later Spartanburg Regional Hospital). Gantt received appointments from five South Carolina governors and three U.S. presidents. A widely published author of medical works, she had numerous articles in the Southern Medical Journal, many of which received wide recognition in her field.
Gantt was also a leader in Spartanburg’s Jewish community. In 1916 she was instrumental in building the first synagogue in Spartanburg, Temple B’nai Israel, and was founder of the Sisterhood of Temple B’nai Israel, known then as the Women’s Auxiliary, which raised funds for stained glass windows, pews, and flooring for the children’s classrooms. Due to her efforts, the auxiliary provided hospitality for Converse College students, and during World War I offered religious services and entertainment for soldiers at Camp Wadsworth. For the war effort, she organized five hundred women volunteers to work in medical and other services. In 1924 Gantt negotiated with Oakwood Cemetery for a Jewish section, which made Jewish burials possible in Spartanburg for the first time.
In November 1935 Gantt entered Women’s Medical College Hospital in Philadelphia, for treatment of a malignant disease. She died two weeks later, on November 16, 1935, and was buried in Spartanburg at Oakwood Cemetery. Her remains were later reburied at Greenlawn Memorial Gardens, Spartanburg.
Herbert, William Chapman, Jr. A Brief History of Medicine in the Spartanburg Region and of the Spartanburg County Medical Society 1700–1990. Spartanburg, S.C.: Reprint Company, 1992.
Poliakoff, Marsha. “Names and Faces of Spartanburg.” Jewish Historical Society of South Carolina 7 (summer 2002): 9.