First Wave Feminists- Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell

Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) overcame ceaseless harassment and partial blindness to graduate from Geneva Medical College with honors, becoming the first American woman awarded an allopathic medical degree, and the first woman placed on the British Medical Register. A single woman in 1854, Blackwell further defied social mores when she adopted a young daughter and encouraged her sister Emily to do the same. Inspired by dear friend and modern nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale,   the Blackwell sisters later teamed with Polish-German midwife Marie Zakrzewska and African-American physician Dr. Rebecca Cole to form the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, the first American hospital (and later college) staffed entirely by women.

“The gross perversion and destruction of motherhood by the abortionist filled me with indignation, and awakened active antagonism. That the honorable term ‘female physician’ should be exclusively applied to those women who carried on this shocking trade seemed to me a horror. It was an utter degradation of what might and should become a noble position for women.  I finally determined to do what I could do ‘to redeem the hells,’ and especially the one form of hell thus forced upon my notice.”

– From Dr. Blackwell’s diary, ca. August 21, 1839

-Jen Hawkins, The American Feminist: First Wave Feminists