Women are famously shown throughout history as the caretaker of homes, with a primary goal of tending to the family. They were expected to take care of loved ones when they weren’t feeling well, but were not allowed to work in a hospital or take care of sick people as a profession. In fact, Elizabeth Blackwell got her degree in 1849, becoming the first female Doctor in the United States. Her story of perseverance is inspiring and has had a deep effect on women in the medical field ever since.
Born in the United Kingdom, Elizabeth Blackwell’s family moved to the United States in 1832. Her father died soon after they came to America, leaving her sister and mother to support the family. Elizabeth became a teacher in order to help out her mother, but realized her interest truly lied in medicine when her friend needed help but was more comfortable with a woman treating her than a man. She did not have a lot of choices as women were not doctors in the mid 1800’s but Blackwell helped her as much as she could. After her friend passed away, Blackwell decided to go back to school and pursue a career in the medical field.
Blackwell’s application to medical school was treated as a joke because of her gender, her professors even went as far as to say that she should dress up as a man for her interviews in order to get into school. She began to lose hope on her new found dream when finally, she was accepted to the Geneva Medical College in New York. She went through countless obstacles during her time as a medical student, including being bullied by her male colleagues, and being excluded from lab and lecture activities. But the trouble didn’t stop after she graduated, Blackwell struggled to find work because doctors believed she was a midwife and nothing more. She was not given the same respect or pay as her male counterparts, but persevered.
Despite all of the negatives, she wanted to use her experience to help other women. In 1851, Elizabeth helped train nurses for the union hospital during the civil war. Finally, she opened her own medical school specifically for women. This school also had a hospital for children and anyone who needed help or treatment. After opening her hospital she became a professor of gynecology at the New School of Medicine in London and helped found the National Health Society Women in Medicine.
Blackwell had a huge part in women being seen in the medical field and made history while doing so. It’s inspiring to see how she overcame her fear of rejection and followed her passion to pave the way for all the other empowered women in medicine. Not only did Elizabeth Blackwell inspire her colleagues, but she showed millions of other women around the world who want to go into medicine that through hard work and perseverance, you can achieve anything.
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