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Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910)

First woman to receive a medical degree in the U.S., relentless public health activist

This is a story that is likely to make your blood boil and your heart sing all at the same time. After a dying friend shared that her suffering would have been lessened had her doctor been a woman, young Elizabeth did as any certified brave woman would do, she applied to medical school. Actually, about two dozen of them. Finally, she was accepted to New York State’s Geneva Medical College (now known as Hobart College) – as a joke. The faculty of Geneva thought it would be fun to put Blackwell’s application out for a vote among the 150 male students. The guys voted unanimously to let her in. Oops! Elizabeth graduated at the top of her class, becoming the first female physician in the U.S. and going on to do incredible things like opening the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, training nurses for war service, and helping to develop the United States Sanitary Commission. A bronze statue of Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell can be found on the campus of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Looks like she got the last laugh.

 


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