Elizabeth Blackwell - Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World - Ann Shen

Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World - Ann Shen (2016)

Elizabeth Blackwell

On January 23, 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) became the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States. Her journey there was nurtured by the liberal ideologies introduced by her father, Samuel Blackwell, who moved the family from the United Kingdom to America and worked with the abolitionists.

Blackwell decided to apply to medical school after hearing a dying friend exclaim that her experience would have been better with a female physician by her side. At the time, the term “female doctor” referred only to abortionists. Her application to Geneva Medical College in upstate New York was so unusual that the administrators put her admission up to a vote by the class of 150 male students. Thinking it was a joke, all of them voted in favor of her admission. When she arrived, her presence had a positive impact on the class, turning boisterous young men into well-mannered gentlemen. After graduation, she traveled throughout the country and Europe to further her education and was often confronted by male physicians who refused to work with her. In response, Blackwell opened her own practice, which employed only female physicians and had an all-female board of trustees. She assisted in the Civil War effort, became good friends with Florence Nightingale, and helped establish a women’s medical school in London to mentor up-and-coming female doctors. Blackwell viewed her work in bringing women into the medical profession as a way of creating social and moral reform, bringing feminine perspectives and strengths to the field.

The United States’ first female doctor