Women In Medicine: Elizabeth Blackwell

Elizabeth was the first woman physician in America. Learn about her life and her role in the progress of females in American society.

Although Elizabeth Blackwell was of English birth, she is recognized for becoming the first female in America to be awarded the M.D. Many nineteenth century doctors, including some women, practiced medicine without a degree, but Elizabeth was the first to attain full professional status.

Though she was born in England, Elizabeth's parents moved the family to America when she was only ten years old. Her father failed in business in New York and a few years later died, leaving a wife and nine children nearly penniless. For seven years, she, with two sisters, taught a young ladies' seminary and nearly supported the entire family.

When she was about twenty-two years old, she determined to study medicine along with her teaching. After a few years of study by herself, she moved to Chareston, South Carolina, where she taught music and studied medicine under Dr. Samuel H. Dickson. Later she moved to Philadelphia to study under Dr. J.M. Allen.

Though she applied to the medical schools of Philadelphia, New York, and Boston, she was refused admission because of her sex. The schools used the excuse that there was no precedent and that it was improper to break away from established custom. She did not give up, however, and was finally admitted to the college at Geneva, N.Y. and

pursued her studies with marked success and took her degree in 1849.

She pursued clinical studies in Blockley hospital in Philadelphia and then went to Paris to study in the Maternite hospital. Her next experience was in the hospital of St. Bartholomew in London, where she spent a year. She then returned to New York where she wished to

set up a medical practice.

This was not an easy thing to do. Hospitals and dispensaries refused association with her and she was even refused lodging and office space. While these things were sometimes hard to bear, instead of discouraging her, difficulties made her more determined. She began to

see women and children in her home and as her practice developed she also wrote lectures on health, which she published in 1852 under the title "The Laws of Life: with Special Reference to the Physical Education of Girls".

Elizabeth Blackwell was an inspiration to women all over the world to strive to achieve their dreams. She at last won the victory and prepared the way for others to win success and honor.

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