Woman Making History #9: Elizabeth Blackwell

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Elizabeth BlackwellElizabeth Blackwell is a good example of a history-making woman that I should have known about and didn't. She and those like her are exactly the reason I am doing this exercise.

Elizabeth Blackwell was born in England in 1821, moving to the U.S. in 1832. She was unusually well-educated for a woman of her time, due partially to her progressive father's views on education and partially to the private school she, her mother, and her sisters opened in Cincinnati to support themselves after her father's death.

While working as a teacher, first in her family's school, then in Kentucky and North and South Carolina, Blackwell began to study medicine privately. By 1847, she had made up her mind to go to medical school and began searching for a program that would accept a woman. She was eventually accepted to Geneva Medical School in New York, when the students, thinking the application to be a practical joke, voted to let her in.

After many hardships suffered as the first female medical student in the country, Blackwell graduated at the top of her class in 1849. Shortly thereafter, Blackwell returned to Europe and began studying midwifery in Paris. She suffered an infection that left her blind in one eye at this time, forcing her to abandon plans to become a surgeon.

Upon returning to the U.S. in 1851, Blackwell was not permitted to practice at any hospitals, so she bought a house and opened her own private practice, where she saw women and children. In 1853, she opened a dispensary in New York with her sister, who was newly graduated from medical school, and another female doctor. In 1857, the dispensary was incorporated as the New York Infirmary for Women and Children. During the Civil War, the Blackwell sisters helped select and train Union nurses.

After the war, in 1868, the Blackwells opened the Women's Medical College at the Infirmary. The College operated for 31 years, but Blackwell herself moved to England the next year, where she founded the London School of Medicine for Women with Florence Nightingale. She worked there and at the London School of Medicine for Children until her retirement in 1907.

Elizabeth Blackwell never married. She adopted a child, Kitty, in 1854. She died in 1910.

About: Women's History
National Women's Hall of Fame
National Institute of Health


Aren't women amazing? So glad I am one!

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