This Week In Medical History – Happy Birthday Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell

Born on February 3, 1821, near Bristol, England, the future Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell moved to Cincinnati, OH, in 1832 with her family for financial reasons. Dr. Blackwell was one of the first pioneers and champions of equal rights for women in the medical field.

 

At the time, there were very few medical colleges, and none accepted women. Most men trained as apprentices to experienced doctors. Women could apprentice and eventually become unlicensed physicians. Elizabeth reported that the impetus to become a doctor was given to her by a dying friend, who said her illness would have been better if she had had a female physician. Determined to become the person her friend had needed, Elizabeth called on two doctors she had boarded with during her teaching years to aid her in getting into a medical school. She applied to all the medical schools in New York and Philadelphia and graduated from Geneva Medical College in 1849 becoming the first woman in America to earn an M.D. degree.
Dr. Blackwell did not stop there, she went on to found the New York Infirmary for Women and Children in order to ensure specialized care for women as well as to create a place where aspiring female doctors could find internships and quality training. In 1895, Dr. Blackwell published a book entitled Pioneer Work in Opening the Medical Profession to Women recounting the barriers she faced and how women with a passion for healing could follow in her footsteps.
By the mid-1870s Dr. Blackwell retired from the medical profession due to the frailty of her age, but not even her declining health could stop her from frighting for the right of women everywhere to become respected medical professionals. So this week we honor her, in remembrance and in deference to all she accomplished and stood for.
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