Elizabeth Blackwell’s autobiographic history of the brave accomplishments of those who made the USA’s medical profession accessible to women is illuminating and uplifting.
Writing toward the end of the 19th century, Blackwell strikes a dignified and resolute tone throughout this memoir. Prior to Victorian times, women had only a diminished role in the medical profession, which – like most other professional trades at the time – was closed to female participation. Elizabeth Blackwell however was adamant that she could serve as a medic; her persistence led her to become the first woman ever taught in medical school, studying in the USA.
Blackwell discusses famous figures in English medicine, such as Florence Nightingale, as well as several more obscure – but nevertheless important and influential – contributors to the progress of women in the medical profession. Towards the end of the book, set in 1858, Elizabeth Blackwell revisits England to behold the hospitals and medical community of that nation.
The advances in medicine during the 19th century were abundant; inventions such as anesthetics, painkillers, and numerous new surgical techniques transformed and legitimized a field which had previously been ineffectual and plagued by quackery. Despite being mocked and demeaned by male doctors and medical students, Blackwell persevered and achieved greatness to become a model for many women to follow.
Owing to the efforts of Blackwell herself, and others described in this book, females began to be recognized, participate and study the medical profession. By the time Elizabeth Blackwell published these recollections, universities had already admitted many talented women who would go on to become great nurses and medical practitioners.