Blackwell, Elizabeth, 1821-1910

Alternative names
Birth 1821-02-03
Death 1910-05-31

Biographical notes:

Elizabeth Blackwell received her medical degree from Geneva Medical College in 1849. She then traveled to England and France to continue her study of medicine, returning to New York in August 1851.

From the description of Letter : [New York], to her friend, Katie, [1851?] Sep 13. (Yale University). WorldCat record id: 703640277

From the description of Letter : [New York], to her friend, Katie, [1851?] Sep 13. (Yale University). WorldCat record id: 702162406

First U. S. woman to receive a medical degree.

From the description of Elizabeth Blackwell papers, 1849-1863, and undated. (Duke University). WorldCat record id: 34847574


Blackwell was the founder of the New York Infirmary for Women and Children and its Women's Medical College.

From the description of Research collection, 1847-1981. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 155458647


Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman awarded an M.D. Degree.

From the description of Elizabeth Blackwell letters, 1850-1884 (?). (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 467178799

BIOGHIST REQUIRED Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell was born in Bristol, England, in 1821 to a politically outspoken father committed to fairness among his male and female children. In 1832, Samuel Blackwell moved his family to the United States in part for financial reasons but also to participate in the abolitionist movement. Two of his daughters would grow up to continue this fight against slavery and to work towards women's rights, specifically in the area of women in medicine.

BIOGHIST REQUIRED After years of struggling to be taken seriously and receiving rejections from 29 schools, Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States in 1849. Upon graduating first in her class from New York's Geneva Medical College, she left for Europe, working in clinics in London and Paris. It was during her time in England in 1850 that Blackwell's cousin, Bessie Rayner Parkes, introduced her to fellow women's rights pioneer Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon. Then, while studying midwifery in France, Blackwell contracted purulent opthalmia, costing her sight in one eye and prompting her return to New York in 1851.

BIOGHIST REQUIRED Sexism in the United States limited Blackwell's opportunities for employment and for much intellectual exchange with other physicians, so, in 1853, Blackwell opened her own small dispensary. Then in 1857, along with her sister Emily, also a doctor, and their friend Dr. Marie Zakrzewska, she founded the New York Infirmary for Women and Children. At the onset of the Civil War, Blackwell organized the Women's Central Association of Relief, training nurses for war service. She and her sister also helped to establish the United States Sanitary Commission. After the war, the Blackwell sisters founded the Women's Medical College at their infirmary in New York where Elizabeth served on the faculty until 1869 when she moved back to London.

BIOGHIST REQUIRED Blackwell gave up the practice of medicine in the 1870s due to her declining health, but she continued to teach and campaign for increased opportunities for women in the medical field. She died in England in 1910 at the age of 89. In 1949, 100 years after she received her M.D., the American Medical Women's Association created the Elizabeth Blackwell Medal to honor outstanding contributions made by women in the medical field.

From the guide to the Elizabeth Blackwell Letters, circa 1850-1884, (Columbia University. Rare Book and Manuscript Library)


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Ark ID:


  • Physicians
  • Medicine--Practice--England
  • Medicine--Essays
  • Women in medicine
  • Women physicians
  • Medicine--Practice--United States
  • Medicine--Practice
  • Sanitation
  • Medicine--Study and teaching
  • Public health
  • Women--History
  • Feminism


  • Women physicians


  • United States (as recorded)
  • England (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)