Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910)
First woman to receive a medical degree in the United States
Quote: “If society will not admit of a woman’s free development, then society must be remodeled.”
- Elizabeth Blackwell was born near Bristol, England in 1821. She was the third of nine children.
- In 1832, they moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. Her father died in 1838, leaving the family penniless. Elizabeth, her mother, and two older sisters worked as teachers to make money.
- After a dying friend said she would have felt better with a female physician, Blackwell decided to pursue medicine. After multiple rejections, she was admitted to Geneva College in New York. Her acceptance letter, however, was intended as a practical joke.
- Despite the constant discrimination, Blackwell pushed forward and graduated first in her class in 1849. She began to emphasize preventative care and personal hygiene, recognizing that male doctors often caused epidemics by failing to wash their hands between patients.
- In 1868, she opened a medical college in New York City. She placed her sister in charge a year later and permanently returned to London, becoming a professor of gynecology.