#WomenInSTEMWednesday: Elizabeth Blackwell

Courtesy: Library of Congress

We’ve made it to another Wednesday which means another #WomenInSTEMWednesday for us to dig into. This week’s woman is Elizabeth Blackwell – the first woman in America to receive a medical degree.

Blackwell was accepted into medical school as a joke, but she showed up anyways blazing a trail for other women. She wasn’t originally interested in medicine but that changed when a friend (who ended up dying) said she might have had less pain and suffering if her doctor had been female.

Once she was accepted into Geneva Medical College (now part of Syracuse University), her road was not an easy one. She had to sit in different parts of the classroom than her male counterparts and at times was asked to leave during anatomy lessons. Blackwell pushed through anyway, showing all of them that they were wrong, graduating first in her class in 1849.

After graduation, Blackwell went on to train in the maternity wards in Paris and London. While there, she lost sight in one eye after becoming infected with gonorrhea while caring for a baby that had an infected eye. The loss of her sight in one eye didn’t stop her.

Instead she, along with her sister and Dr. Marie Zakrzewska, opened the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children as a place for those less fortunate to get treatment. The New York Infirmary went on to be a place that female medical students and nurses could learn. About 10 years after the infirmary opened, Blackwell went on to found the Woman’s Medical College of the New York Infirmary and the London School of Medicine for Women less than 10 years after that.

During all these milestones, she was setting an example of what women can do and paving the way for others to start in the medical field. Although she was met with laughs and opposition when she first started in medical school, she didn’t let that stop her. Blackwell continued and ended up changing the world for many.

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