Ray Karchmer Daily
1891 – 1973
Ray Karchmer Daily was a leader in Texas in the struggle for equal opportunities for women. She was born in Vilna, Lithuania, on March 16, 1891, to Kalman and Anna (Levison) Karchmer. The youngest of five children (Jack, Alex, Sidney, Nathan, and Ray), she immigrated to the United States with her parents when she was age fourteen. The family settled in Denison, Texas, where her father operated a business. In 1913, she became the first Jewish woman to graduate from a Texas medical school. After much difficulty, she found an internship at Women’s Hospital in Philadelphia, the only hospital/medical school with a dormitory for women. Throughout her career she crusaded for adequate housing for female medical students. Her chosen specialty was ophthalmology, but there were no residence positions available in the United States for women. She finished her training in Vienna, Austria.
In 1914, Ray Karchmer returned to Houston to marry Dr. Louis Daily, an ear, nose, and throat specialist, whom she had met in medical school. Louis and Ray Daily were partners personally and professionally until his death in 1952. The couple had one son, Dr. Louis Daily, Jr., who joined his mother’s practice after the death of his father.
A leader in the Houston medical community, Daily was the only woman physician among the founders of the Houston Academy of Medicine. She held many positions within the field of medicine, including president of the Houston Memorial Hospital staff.
In 1928, Ray Daily was elected to the Houston school board, the second woman to serve on the board. She served one term as president of the board and as president of the Texas School Board Association. As a member of the Houston school board, she became an advocate for those needing special care or suffering from discrimination in education. Daily promoted classes for those with reading disorders (today known as dyslexia). But it was her support for the federally funded free lunch program for needy children that led to a label of “communist” for Daily. She was denounced by anonymous individuals as a “Russian born Red Jewess” and put under FBI surveillance. The discrimination, born in the 1940s, climaxed in 1952 during the time of Senator Joseph McCarthy and the subsequent “red scare.”
Ray Karchmer Daily died on March 7, 1973. She served her profession, her community, and her faith for over forty years in Houston, Texas. She worked for the rights of women and children, for equitable educational opportunities, and for a variety of socially progressive programs.
Carleton, Don E. Red Scare! Right-Wing Hysteria, Fifties Fanaticism, and Their Legacy in Texas (1985); McAdams, Ina May Ogletree. Texas Women of Distinction: A Biographical History (1962); Ornish, Natalie. Pioneer Jewish Texans: Their Impact on Texas and American History for Four Hundred Years, 1590–1990 (1989); Texas Jewish Archives. Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas, Austin, Texas; Winegarten, Ruthe, and Cathy Schechter. Deep in the Heart: The Lives and Legends of Texas Jews (1990); WWIAJ (1926, 1938).