Who was Elizabeth Blackwell?
Elizabeth Blackwell was born in 1821 in Bristol, England and was the first woman to graduate a U.S. medical school. As such, she is often called America’s first female doctor. In 1832, Blackwell and her family moved to the United States, first settling in New York and later moving to Cincinnati, Ohio
Her gender, at first, shut her out of all of the major medical schools in the United States, but she was finally accepted at Geneva Medical School in New York. This was only because the administrators thought it was a joke. Enduring harassment and chauvinism from fellow students, professors, and even the townspeople, she earned her degree and was first in her class in 1849.
She was forbidden to practice medicine in any city hospital. Thus, she set up her own clinic, the New York Dispensary for Poor Women and Children, and later founded a medical college, the Women’s Medical College of the New York Infirmary.
Blackwell was ahead of her time in realizing sanitation and cleanliness helps prevent disease in a time when surgeons moved from one patient to the next without cleaning instruments. She helped establish the U.S. Sanitary Commission in 1861, and was the first woman included on the British Medical Register.
Blackwell moved back to England to lecture at the London School of Medicine for Women and run a private practice. She published several books including Pioneer Work in the Medical Profession for Women in 1895. She died in Hastings, England in May, 1910.