Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine,  8 (1859–60), 13–16.

The Englishwoman in London: 1: Dr Elisabeth Blackwell  [1/11]



Essay, Serial


Gender, Medical Practitioners, Education, Hospitals, Lecturing, Anatomy, Disease, Colleges

Institutions mentioned:

Lying-in Maternité Hospital, Paris , St Bartholomew's Hospital , Women's Hospital, Red Lion Square

Publications cited:

Blackwell 1853

    Regards Elizabeth Blackwell's recent lectures to women at the Marylebone Institute to be 'the most unique' event in the past month. Notes that whilst her audience contained some who dissented from her views, many 'returned somewhat softened' by her 'facts and arguments' concerning female employment. Thinks the opening up of the English medical profession to women is imminent but regards such a course as being 'problematical'. Goes on to describe Blackwell's arduous early life, including her father's unsuccessful commercial ventures in America, and the family's consequent struggles to make ends meet. (13) Notes how Blackwell studied 'medical and anatomical books' whilst running a boarding-school in Kentucky, and after three years of medical study, tried unsuccessfully to enter medical school. Stresses that she applied to all American medical colleges to pursue her own goal and to 'set a precedent for other women'. Describes how she was eventually accepted by the College of the University of Geneva, New York State, but having continued to suffer difficulties studying medicine, sought to establish a medical school for women. Notes that in 1849 she became the first woman to receive a medical diploma (from Geneva). (14) Describes how she tried, with varying degrees of success, to continue her education in Paris and London. Stresses that she prompted many other American women to pursue medicine and established a New York-based medical practice (and later hospital) for women and children—a concern funded partly by her lecturing activities. Links this to the decision by five American medical colleges to admit women and the fact that the previous nine years had witnessed 200 women gaining medical diplomas. In discussing Blackwell's division of her classes into nurses, midwives, and physicians, urges the need for a better medical training for nurses and midwives. Claims that the latter practitioners merely assist nature, while the physician should 'judge, decide, and balance probabilities', and possess a detailed knowledge of human anatomy and diseases. Notes that 'we still sicken at the idea of morbid anatomy' despite upholding the benefits of the 'study of physiology', the desirability for women practitioners to discuss women's diseases, and the need for women medical practitioners. (15) Reminds those joining the 'movement' to extend women's medical education of the impossibility of persuading the world that women medical practitioners are 'possessed of the same feelings as the generality of women'. Urges that women should follow the example of men and 'stand the brunt of any and every battle', rather than complain when they become 'bespattered by both blood and brains'. They should be prepared to be 'regarded with more curiosity than gratitude'. Announces the proposal to establish a hospital in London 'for the treatment of the special diseases of women', together with details of its women organisers and patrons. Concludes by describing Blackwell's physical features and praising her abilities, but argues that she cannot be 'taken as a fair type of feminine abilities'. (16)

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