Anna Louise James

Anna Louise James

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Anna Louise James was born on January 19, 1886, in  Hartford. Overcoming the bigotry of racism and sexism, she attended Brooklyn College of Pharmacy where she was the only woman in her class, graduating in 1908. She operated a drugstore in Hartford until 1911, when she went to work for her brother-in-law at his pharmacy, making her the first female African American pharmacist in the state of Connecticut.

The pharmacy where James worked started out as a general store for the Humphrey Pratt Tavern in 1790. The store moved to its current location at the corner of Pennywise Lane in 1877, where it became Lane Pharmacy. Peter Lane, one of only two black pharmacists in early Connecticut, added a soda fountain to his establishment in 1896.

When Peter got called away to fight in World War I, he left the pharmacy in the care of his sister-in-law, Anna Louise James. In 1917, Anna took over the operations and renamed her business James Pharmacy. Anna, known to local residents as “Miss James,” operated the business until 1967.

In the 1990s, AT&T featured the James Pharmacy building in one of its television commercials. The building also received recognition as part of a documentary on local resident Katharine Hepburn. In 1994, the James Pharmacy received a listing on the National Register of Historic Places.


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Cool Fact: With the passage of the 19th amendment to the US Constitution in 1920 she became one of the first women to register to vote. It was neither easy nor common for an African American woman to successfully pursue a professional career.