90 Facts About Elizabeth Blackwell


Elizabeth Blackwell was a British and American physician, notable as the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States, and the first woman on the Medical Register of the General Medical Council for the United Kingdom.


Elizabeth Blackwell's contributions remain celebrated with the Elizabeth Blackwell Medal, awarded annually to a woman who has made a significant contribution to the promotion of women in medicine.


Elizabeth Blackwell, was not initially interested in a career in medicine.


Elizabeth Blackwell became a schoolteacher in order to support her family.


Elizabeth Blackwell was rejected from each medical school she applied to, except Geneva Medical College in New York, in which the male students voted for Blackwell's acceptance.


Elizabeth Blackwell founded the New York Infirmary for Women and Children with her sister Emily Elizabeth Blackwell in 1857, and began giving lectures to female audiences on the importance of educating girls.


Elizabeth Blackwell played a significant role during the American Civil War by organizing nurses, and the Infirmary developed a medical school program for women, providing substantial work with patients.


Elizabeth Blackwell had two older siblings, Anna and Marian, and would eventually have six younger siblings: Samuel, Henry, Emily, Sarah Ellen, John and George.


Elizabeth Blackwell had four maiden aunts: Barbara, Ann, Lucy, and Mary, who lived with them.


In 1832, the family emigrated from Bristol, England, to New York because Samuel Elizabeth Blackwell had lost their most profitable sugar refinery to a fire.


In New York, Elizabeth Blackwell's father became active in abolitionist work.


For example, rather than beating the children for bad behavior, Barbara Elizabeth Blackwell recorded their trespasses in a black book.


Samuel Elizabeth Blackwell was similarly liberal in his attitude towards the education of his children.


Samuel Elizabeth Blackwell was a Congregationalist and exerted a strong influence over the religious and academic education of his children.


Elizabeth Blackwell believed that each child, including his girls, should be given the opportunity for unlimited development of their talents and gifts.


Elizabeth Blackwell had not only a governess, but private tutors to supplement her intellectual development.


When Elizabeth Blackwell was 17, her father died, leaving the family with little money.


In December 1838, Elizabeth Blackwell converted to Episcopalianism, probably due to her sister Anna's influence, becoming an active member of St Paul's Episcopal Church.


Channing, a charismatic Unitarian minister, introduced the ideas of transcendentalism to Elizabeth Blackwell, who started attending the Unitarian Church.


Elizabeth Blackwell worked at intellectual self-improvement: studying art, attending various lectures, writing short stories and attending various religious services in all denominations.


In 1844, with the help of her sister Anna, Elizabeth Blackwell procured a teaching job that paid $1,000 per year in Henderson, Kentucky.


Once again, through her sister Anna, Elizabeth Blackwell procured a job, this time teaching music at an academy in Asheville, North Carolina, with the goal of saving up the $3,000 necessary for her medical school expenses.


Elizabeth Blackwell renewed her antislavery interests, starting a slave Sunday school that was ultimately unsuccessful.


Dickson's school closed down soon after, and Elizabeth Blackwell moved to the residence of Reverend Dickson's brother, Samuel Henry Dickson, a prominent Charleston physician.


Elizabeth Blackwell started teaching in 1846 at a boarding school in Charleston run by a Mrs Du Pre.


In 1847, Elizabeth Blackwell left Charleston for Philadelphia and New York, with the aim of personally investigating the opportunities for medical study.


In October 1847, Elizabeth Blackwell was accepted as a medical student by Geneva Medical College, located in Geneva, New York.


When Elizabeth Blackwell arrived at the college, she was rather nervous.


Elizabeth Blackwell did not even know where to get her books.


Elizabeth Blackwell rejected suitors and friends alike, preferring to isolate herself.


Elizabeth Blackwell slowly gained acceptance at Blockley, although some young resident physicians still would walk out and refuse to assist her in diagnosing and treating her patients.


Elizabeth Blackwell's graduating thesis at Geneva Medical College was on the topic of typhus.


On 23 January 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to achieve a medical degree in the United States.


Elizabeth Blackwell visited a few hospitals in Britain and then headed to Paris.


Elizabeth Blackwell made the acquaintance of Hippolyte Blot, a young resident physician at La Maternite.


Elizabeth Blackwell gained much medical experience through his mentoring and training.


On 4 November 1849, when Elizabeth Blackwell was treating an infant with ophthalmia neonatorum, she accidentally squirted some contaminated fluid into her own eye and contracted the infection.


Elizabeth Blackwell lost sight in her left eye, requiring its surgical extraction and leaving her without hope of becoming a surgeon.


Elizabeth Blackwell made a positive impression there, although she did meet opposition when she tried to observe the wards.


Stateside, Elizabeth Blackwell was faced with adversity, but did manage to get some media support from entities such as the New-York Tribune.


Elizabeth Blackwell's practice floundered at first, a situation some attribute to false accusations that all women doctors were abortion care providers.


In 1853, Elizabeth Blackwell established a small dispensary near Tompkins Square.


Elizabeth Blackwell took Marie Zakrzewska, a Polish woman pursuing a medical education, under her wing, serving as her preceptor in her pre-medical studies.


Elizabeth Blackwell sympathized heavily with the North due to her abolitionist roots, and even went so far as to say she would have left the country if the North had compromised on the subject of slavery.


However, Elizabeth Blackwell did meet with some resistance on the part of the male-dominated United States Sanitary Commission.


Elizabeth Blackwell made several trips back to Britain to raise funds and to try to establish a parallel infirmary project there.


Elizabeth Blackwell became a mentor to Elizabeth Garrett Anderson during this time.


Elizabeth Blackwell, feeling slightly alienated by the United States women's medical movement, left for Britain to try to establish medical education for women there.


In 1874, Elizabeth Blackwell established a women's medical school in London with Sophia Jex-Blake, who had been a student at the New York Infirmary years earlier.


Elizabeth Blackwell had doubts about Jex-Blake and thought that she was dangerous, belligerent, and tactless.


Nonetheless, Elizabeth Blackwell became deeply involved with the school, and it opened in 1874 as the London School of Medicine for Women, with the primary goal of preparing women for the licensing exam of Apothecaries Hall.


Elizabeth Blackwell vehemently opposed the use of vivisections in the laboratory of the school.


Elizabeth Blackwell resigned this position in 1877, officially retiring from her medical career.


At a deeper level of disagreement, Elizabeth Blackwell felt that women would succeed in medicine because of their humane female values, but Jacobi believed that women should participate as the equals of men in all medical specialties.


Elizabeth Blackwell was rather occupied with her social status, and her friend, Barbara Bodichon helped introduce Blackwell into her circles.


Elizabeth Blackwell traveled across Europe many times during these years, in England, France, Wales, Switzerland and Italy.


Elizabeth Blackwell switched back and forth between many different reform organisations, trying to maintain a position of power in each.


Elizabeth Blackwell had a lofty, elusive and ultimately unattainable goal: evangelical moral perfection.


Elizabeth Blackwell even contributed heavily to the founding of two utopian communities: Starnthwaite and Hadleigh in the 1880s.


Elizabeth Blackwell believed that the Christian morality ought to play as large a role as scientific inquiry in medicine and that medical schools ought to instruct students in this basic truth.


Elizabeth Blackwell was antimaterialist and did not believe in vivisections.


Elizabeth Blackwell did not see the value of inoculation and thought it dangerous.


Elizabeth Blackwell believed that bacteria were not the only important cause of disease and felt their importance was being exaggerated.


Elizabeth Blackwell campaigned heavily against licentiousness, prostitution and contraceptives, arguing instead for the rhythm method.


Elizabeth Blackwell campaigned against the Contagious Diseases Acts, arguing that it was a pseudo-legalisation of prostitution.


Elizabeth Blackwell's 1878 Counsel to Parents on the Moral Education of their Children was an essay on prostitution and marriage arguing against the Contagious Diseases Acts.


Elizabeth Blackwell was well connected, both in the United States and in the United Kingdom.


Elizabeth Blackwell exchanged letters with Lady Byron about women's rights issues and became very close friends with Florence Nightingale, with whom she discussed opening and running a hospital together.


Elizabeth Blackwell remained lifelong friends with Barbara Bodichon and met Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1883.


Elizabeth Blackwell was close with her family and visited her brothers and sisters whenever she could during her travels.


However, Elizabeth Blackwell had a very strong personality and was often quite acerbic in her criticism of others, especially other women.


Elizabeth Blackwell had a falling out with Florence Nightingale after Nightingale returned from the Crimean War.


Nightingale wanted Elizabeth Blackwell to turn her focus to training nurses and could not see the legitimacy of training female physicians.


Elizabeth Blackwell was highly critical of many of the women's reform and hospital organisations in which she played no role, calling some of them "quack auspices".


In 1856, when Elizabeth Blackwell was establishing the New York Infirmary, she adopted Katherine "Kitty" Barry, an Irish orphan from the House of Refuge on Randall's Island.


Elizabeth Blackwell even instructed Barry in gymnastics as a trial for the theories outlined in her publication, The Laws of Life with Special Reference to the Physical Education of Girls.


However, Elizabeth Blackwell never permitted Barry to develop her own interests.


Elizabeth Blackwell made no effort to introduce Barry to young men or women her own age.


Elizabeth Blackwell thought courtship games were foolish early in her life, and prized her independence.


Elizabeth Blackwell was very close with both Kitty Barry and Blackwell, and it was widely believed in 1876 that he was a suitor for Barry, who was 29 at the time.


Elizabeth Blackwell thought that Sachs lived a life of dissipation and believed that she could reform him.


Elizabeth Blackwell stopped correspondence with Alfred Sachs after the publication of her book.


Elizabeth Blackwell visited the United States in 1906 and took her first and last car ride.


In 1907, while holidaying in Kilmun, Scotland, Elizabeth Blackwell fell down a flight of stairs, and was left almost completely mentally and physically disabled.


Elizabeth Blackwell's ashes were buried in the graveyard of St Munn's Parish Church, Kilmun, and obituaries honouring her appeared in publications such as The Lancet and The British Medical Journal.


The British artist Edith Holden, whose Unitarian family were Elizabeth Blackwell's relatives, was given the middle name "Elizabeth Blackwell" in her honor.


In 1857, Elizabeth Blackwell opened the New York Infirmary for Women with her younger sister Emily.


Elizabeth Blackwell settled in England in the 1870s and continued working on expanding the profession of medicine for women, influencing as many as 476 women to become registered medical professionals in England alone.


Up until her death, Elizabeth Blackwell worked in an active practice in Hastings, England, and continued to lecture at the School of Medicine for Women.


In 1973, Elizabeth Blackwell was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.