Connoisseur of the Exquisite
Annella Brown, according to some, was well ahead of her time. From her earliest days, Annella knew that she wanted a career in medicine. The problem was that in her day, most doctors were men and very few women in the country were doctors. Obviously, there were rarely any women doctors in Georgia. Still, Annella achieved her goal and more. In her later life, her success as a physician allowed her to pursue her perpetual passion for art, jewelry and antiques, especially the rare and exquisite.
Annella Brown, the oldest child of Moody Brown and Eunice P. Brown, was born in Dublin, Georgia on September 13, 1919. Annella first lived in her parents home at 109 Columbia Street and later at 210 Ramsey Street. Annella was determined to become a doctor. She entered high school at the age of eleven and took college preparatory classes in lieu of the normal business and domestic classes usually reserved for the young girls. The young miss graduated from Dublin High School in 1935 before she was sixteen years old. Despite her heavy load of honors classes, Annella finished college in three years and graduated from Georgia College for Women in 1938. Thirteen years later, she would be the first alumnus to win the college's Distinguished Alumni Award. She won the award for the second time in 1975, making her the only graduate to win the prestigious award on two occasions.
Annella had to delay her entrance into medical school because of the minimum age requirement of twenty-one. To keep her mind sharp and to pay the bills, Annella taught English and math in a high school. Miss Brown began her medical studies at the University of Georgia Medical School in 1941. Two years later, she transferred to the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania. Annella's dogged determination paid off in 1944, when she became Annella Brown, M.D. Not only did Annella achieve her goal, but she achieved it with distinction, being one of only two graduates to graduate Summa Cum Laude.
After graduation came the normal practice of interning at a hospital. Annella chose to do her internship at Philadelphia General Hospital, where she scored the highest grade among her colleagues on the surgery test given by the National Board of Examiners. After three years of residency as the first woman surgeon in the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Brown came back to Philadelphia General to practice medicine. Her dream came true. But, bigger and better things were in store for the young physician.
At the age of thirty, Annella was recruited by and signed by the New England Hospital where she served as Surgical Educational Director in charge of training surgical residents, a high honor considering that she had herself recently been a resident in training. In 1950, Dr. Brown was named the hospital's Surgeon-in Chief, a position which she held for a decade. During her tenure, Dr. Brown reversed the hospital's long standing policy of female leadership and the service of only women and children to a practice of serving all patients with both male and female physicians.
Dr. Brown's brilliant surgical skills led her to become only the nation's fifth female certified surgeon and the first woman surgeon to be accredited by the American Surgical Board in the states of New England. While in Boston, Dr. Brown was a fellow in the American College of Surgeons, an Assistant Surgeon at Massachusetts Memorial Hospital, and Instructor of Surgery at Boston University as well as a published author of medical journal articles.
After a relatively brief career in Boston, Dr. Brown left the Bay State to practice in Pennsylvania at the Milton Hospital in 1961. For nearly three decades, Dr. Brown served on the staff of the Hospital, where she was President of the Medical Staff from 1985 to 1986. She specialized in cancer surgery of the breast, colon and thyroid. Dr. Brown was one of the first surgeons to use the practice of chemotherapy in treating her patients.
In an obituary written by her niece, who also contributed much of the information about Dr. Brown's life to the Laurens County Historical Society, Deborah Travers wrote "Throughout her life, Dr. Brown pursued both knowledge and beauty." Annella seemed to be enchanted with poetry, history, art, antique furniture and fine jewelry.
Poetry was an early love. Annella's poetry was published in the Modern Yearbook of Poetry and she was an author of several songs. But her prime passion was art and antique furniture, especially 18th Century French furniture and pieces from the Art Deco era. Travers stated, "She also possessed a keen eye for design, quality and the extraordinary pieces." Her extensive knowledge of art led to her invitation as a guest lecturer at Harvard University.
Auction houses loved Annella Brown. She rarely failed to frequent the sales of fine antiques and art. "By nature, she was a self made competitive woman," her niece Deborah remembered. In explaining her passion for collecting, Brown was once quoted as saying of herself, "I want what I want when I want it. I'm known for standing in the aisle with my paddle up until I get it."
Dr. Brown's captivation for having the most exquisite items for her home and collection was never more apparent than in 1977, when she arrived in a helicopter to attend the auction of the estate of the Earl of Rosebury in Mentmore, England.
Eventually, Annella developed a enchantment for jewelry, which "came in part from her attraction to jewelry boxes," her niece stated. Though she rarely wore any of her best jewelry, she amassed a fortune in some of the world's most exquisite items, including her favorite Cartier necklace, which she sold and bought three times. Her collection of Art Deco jewelry was reputed to be one of the finest in the nation.
Dr. Brown's loves extended to architecture. She restored three homes in the Dordogne Valley of France and an 1859 sixteen-horse stall barn in Sherborn, Massachusetts, which she converted into a ten-room colonial home. Her collection of restored homes included five houses in Beacon Hill and a Boston town house. In 1980, Dr. Brown discovered an Art Deco home in Miami Beach. Though it was not for sale, Dr. Brown got what she wanted and began the lengthy, detailed and expensive process of restoring the 1935 house to its original grandeur.
A few years before her death, Dr. Brown's collection of art, jewelry, furniture and an eclectic amalgamation of the elegant was sold by Skinner Auction Company. At the age of 88, Dr. Brown died of heart failure at her home in Miami on April 13, 2008. Those who knew her would say that , "She loved laughter, singing, originality, challenges, meeting new people, and learning something new." Her niece simply said, "She was a Renaissance woman."