In February, National Women Physicians Day celebrates the 195th birthday of Elizabeth Blackwell. Talk about a leading lady in the field of medicine. Elizabeth Blackwell was not only the first woman ever to graduate from medical school in the U.S., she also became the first to earn her M.D.
Blackwell’s interest in the discipline was spurred by witnessing her dear friend suffer from a terminal illness. This friend often remarked that she believed she would have fared better under the care of a female physician…so Blackwell took it upon herself to explore that possibility.
The idea of a female becoming a physician was somewhat of a joke in the 1800s, making the road quite bumpy for Blackwell. But as she excelled in her studies and advanced ever further, she created a bit of an uproar and quite a name for herself in the community.
Blackwell transitioned from practicing midwifery in London and Paris after graduation, to opening a clinic in New York City that focused on poor women and their children. She also assisted in establishing the U.S. Sanitary Commission before opening a medical school for women in New York. Soon after the college opened, Blackwell returned to England where she spent the rest of her life as a private practitioner.
Female physicians everywhere owe a debt of gratitude to Blackwell for her persistence and perseverance in the face of adversity.