A trail-blazing Detroit pediatrician, Dr. Natalia Tanner Cain was also a trail-blazer at Roeper, integrating the school when she sent her daughter here. Dr. Tanner Cain and Annemarie became friends as part of an informal group of pediatricians and psychologists that met on Sunday mornings in Detroit in the 1950s to discuss child development. Dr. Tanner Cain’s oldest child, Sheila, entered Roeper in 1955 when she was two. Sheila’s younger sister, Anita, entered the school in 1960.
According to Annemarie, Roeper was the first independent school in Michigan to admit African-American students. She and George had planned on admitting students of any race or ethnicity when they opened the school but were advised to wait until after they had secured their citizenship. Since the fight for civil rights was sometimes associated with Communism, their advisors worried that admitting black students in those pre-Brown v. Board of Education days, would cause the immigration authorities to think they were Communists and jeopardize their applications.
Dr. Tanner Cain was a second-generation black physician in an era when that was unheard-of. She posted many “firsts” in her career, both as an African-American and a woman, and this article in the Free Press details her impressive career as a pediatrician and professor at Wayne State University School of Medicine. Her husband, Dr. Waldo Cain, was a surgeon.
Dr. Tanner Cain last visited the school when she and Sheila attended Annemarie’s memorial in 2012.
Contributed by: Marcia Ruff, School Historian