A Brief Biography of Elizabeth Blackwell

Elizabeth Blackwell was the first female doctor to graduate with a medical degree.  As such, she is an important figure in the history of medicine, especially since she was influential for the path of women doctors on both sides of the Atlantic.

Blackwell, having graduating in 1849 from Geneva College, New York, gained work experience during 1850 and 1851 at La Maternité in Paris and St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London.  There, she reveled in her celebrity as the first female doctor and was welcomed with open arms, principally by the middle and upper classes of London society. One particular group who received Blackwell in London was the “Langham Place Circle;” there, she cemented a network of supportive, financially secure, independently-minded women -or “Lady Bountifuls” –including Lady Byron, Barbara Leigh Smith and the Comtesse de Noailles, . Although these women were not particularly well-educated, they had access to money and connections both in Britain and abroad.

Upon Blackwell’s return to New York in 1851, however, she found herself alone. While she still enjoyed letters of support and advice from the “Lady Bountifuls,” she also often received hostile letters.  She had to fend off unwanted male attention on her walks home from various patients’ houses late at night.  She struggled to establish herself in New York as a mainstream doctor, and to dispel rumors that she was an abortionist. She found herself isolated in her profession.

For more on Blackwell, see the National Library of Medicine: Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell


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History of Applied Science & Technology Copyright © 2017 by Danielle Skjelver, David Arnold, Hans Peter Broedel, Sharon Bailey Glasco, Bonnie Kim, Sheryl Dahm Broedel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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