Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Blackwell, Elizabeth

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BLACKWELL, Elizabeth, physician, b. in Bristol, England, in 1821. Her father emigrated with his family in 1832, and settled in New York, but removed in 1838 to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he died a few months afterward, leaving a widow and nine children almost destitute. Elizabeth, then seventeen years old, opened a school in connection with two elder sisters, and conducted it successfully for several years. A friend now suggested that she should study medicine, and she resolved to become a physician. At first she pursued her studies in private, with some help from Dr. John Dixon, of Asheville, N. C., in whose family she was governess for a year. She then continued her studies in Charleston, S. C., supporting herself by teaching music, and after that in Philadelphia, under Dr. Allen and Dr. Warrington. She now made formal application to the medical schools of Philadelphia, New York, and Boston for admission as a student, but in each instance the request was denied, although several professors avowed interest in her undertaking. Rejecting advice to adopt an assumed name and male attire, she persevered in her attempt, and after several more refusals was finally admitted to the medical school at Geneva, N. Y., where she took her degree of M. D. in regular course in January, 1849. During her connection with the college, when not in attendance there upon lectures, she pursued a course of clinical study in Blockley hospital, Philadelphia. After graduation she went to Paris, and remained there six months, devoting herself to the study and practice of midwifery. The next autumn she was admitted as a physician to walk the hospital of St. Bartholomew in London, and after nearly a year spent there she returned to New York, and began practice in 1851. In 1854, with her sister, Dr. Emily Blackwell, she organized the New York infirmary for women and children. In 1859 she revisited England, and delivered in London and other cities a course of lectures on the necessity of medical education for women. In 1861, having returned to New York, she held, with Dr. Emily Blackwell, a meeting in the parlors of the infirmary, at which the first steps were taken toward organizing the women's central relief association for sending nurses and medical supplies for the wounded soldiers during the civil war. In 1867 the two sisters organized the women's medical college of the New York infirmary, in which Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell held the chair of hygiene and Dr. Emily Blackwell the chair of obstetrics and diseases of women. In 1869, leaving Dr. Emily in charge of their joint work, Dr. Elizabeth returned to London and practised there for several years, taking an active part in organizing the women's medical college, in which she was elected professor of the diseases of women. She also took part in forming in England the national health society, and the society for repealing the contagious-diseases acts. Besides several health tracts, she has published “Laws of Life, or the Physical Education of Girls” (Philadelphia, 1852), and “Counsel to Parents on the Moral Education of their Children” (1879), which has been translated into French.