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First Female American Doctor: Elizabeth Blackwell

Elizabeth Blackwell is now renowned as America’s first female doctor. She overcame hardships, discrimination, and prejudice to earn this title.

Elizabeth Blackwell was born in 1821 in England into a big family. In 1832, Blackwell’s father lost their most profitable sugar refinery. Because of this, their family moved to America. In 1938, Blackwell’s father passed away. His death left the large family with little money. Pressed to earn money, Elizabeth Blackwell acquired a teaching job. While she liked teaching, she knew she wanted to do more.

Blackwell got another teaching job. She entered this job with the goal of earning at least $3,000 so that she could begin medical school. In 1847, Blackwell left for Philadelphia and New York to look for a medical education. Here, she was met with lots of resistance. No one was willing to accept her. The biggest reason for rejection was that she was a woman and therefore less capable. Many physicians recommended Blackwell to complete her medical education in another country. Some suggested for her to enter medical school under the disguise of a man. Blackwell was not willing to do this.

In 1947, Elizabeth Blackwell was admitted into Geneva Medical College. The officers in charge of admittance were not able to decide on Blackwell’s case due to the fact that she was female. They decided to take this case to the Geneva Medical College’s students. The school’s 150 men were told that if even one of them did not want Elizaetbh to join, then Elizaebth would be denied admission. All 150 students agreed to let her join the school. Blackwell was finally accepted into medical school.

On January 23, 1849, Blackwell became the first woman to achieve a medical degree in the United States. This feat led Blackwell to be met with some hate - but also lots of encouragement. She continued to face adversity throughout her medical career. In 1952, Elizabeth Blackwell created her own medical facility. At first, not many patients came because they did not believe a female doctor was qualified enough. However, she persisted. By 1969, Elizabeth moved to Britain. This was due to her feelings of alienation in the US. In 1974, Blackwell established a women's medical school in London with Sophia Jex-Blake.

Because of her great achievements, Blackwell has had several accolades in honor of her. Since 1949, the American Medical Women's Association has awarded the Elizabeth Blackwell Medal annually to a female physician. Hobart and William Smith Colleges awards an annual Elizabeth Blackwell Award to women who have demonstrated "outstanding service to humankind." In 2013 the University of Bristol launched the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute for Health Research. On February 3, 2018, Google honoured her as a doodle in recognition of her 197th birth anniversary.

Overall, Elizabeth Blackwell has been an inspiration to many females because of her bravery and willfulness to pursue a medical career. She continues to inspire young girls even now. She will forever be remembered as a great woman in STEM.

BY: Nami Mahajan


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