Blackwell, Elizabeth

Blackwell, Elizabeth,

1821–1910, American physician, b. England; sister of Henry Brown BlackwellBlackwell, Henry Brown,
1825–1909, American reformer, b. Bristol, England; brother of Elizabeth Blackwell. He was an abolitionist and later, with his wife, Lucy Stone, a worker for woman suffrage.
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. She was the first woman in the United States to receive a medical degree, which was granted (1849) to her by Geneva Medical College (then part of Geneva College, early name of Hobart). With her sister, Emily Blackwell (1826–1910) who was also a doctor, and Marie Zackrzewska, she founded (1857) the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, which was expanded in 1868 to include a Women's College for the training of doctors, the first of its kind. In 1869, Dr. Blackwell settled in England, where she became (1875) professor of gynecology at the London School of Medicine for Women, which she had helped to establish. She wrote Pioneer Work in Opening the Medical Profession to Women (1895) and many other books and papers on health and education.


See biographies by A. McFerran (1966), D. C. Wilson (1970), and J. R. Nimura (2021).

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Blackwell, Elizabeth

(1821–1910) physician; born in Counterslip, near Bristol, England. The first woman of modern times to graduate in medicine, she fostered personal hygiene as a means of moral reform and combatting disease. Sister of pioneering physician Emily Blackwell, she emigrated with her family to America at the age of 11 (1832). Educated along with her brothers, introduced to abolitionist and reform activities, she chose to study medicine rather than marry, always maintaining an interest in the arts. She was turned down for entrance by most major medical schools of the time, but was eventually accepted at Geneva College in New York state. Initial student ostracization turned to respect, a pattern repeated throughout her pioneering medical career. After receiving her degree (1849), she was barred from practice in most European and American hospitals (1850–58). Setting up private practice in New York City, she lectured on public hygiene and founded the New York Infirmary for Women and Children (1857). Lecturing in England (1858–59), she became the first female physician listed in the Medical Register of the United Kingdom. She helped found the U.S. Sanitary Commission (1861) and founded the Women's Medical College of the New York Infirmary (1868–69). Returning to London (1871), she maintained a large practice and was named chair of gynecology at the London School of Medicine for Women (1875).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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In 1869, Emily Blackwell, Elizabeth's sister, and another woman doctor, Maria Zakazewska, took over running the Infirmary.