On what would have been her 197th birthday, Elizabeth Blackwell is being honored as the Feb. 3, 2018 Google Doodle. Here’s what you should know about her!
1. She was a pioneering physician who paved the way for women in medicine. While she faced much resentment and prejudice from her medical school peers, she earned her diploma in two years — making her the first woman in America to receive a medical degree. During a visit to England in 1859, she became the first woman to be listed on the UK Medical Register. In the 1860s and 1870s, she fought for the acceptance and support of women in medicine in Great Britain, and finally won the right for British women to pursue medical degrees in 1976. In 1881, there were only 25 registered female doctors in England and Wales, but a year after her death in 1911, there were almost 500 registered in the country.
She also added a women’s medical school to her New York women’s hospital that she helped start with her sister Emily, who was the third woman in the US to obtain a medical degree, and female physician Dr. Marie Zakrzewska, in 1857. The medical school opened in Nov. 1868.
2. She was never able to become a surgeon, like she intended. After earning her degree, she studied midwifery in London and Paris clinics, where she contracted purulent ophthalmia, an inflammation that left her blind in one eye — thus ended her ambitions of ever becoming a surgeon.
3. Her admittance to medical school was the result of a joke. She was rejected from nearly every medical school she applied to, except Geneva Medical College in New York. The administration decided to leave her acceptance up to the all-male student body, assuming that they wouldn’t dare vote to allow a woman attend their school. But the plan backfired when the students, as a prank on their professors, voted to let Elizabeth study with them. She was granted admission in 1847.
4. She was originally a teacher. Elizabeth was born in Bristol in 1821, but emigrated with her family to the United States when she was 11. Her career began when her and her sisters set up a school to provide their family with financial stability after their father Samuel died in 1838. She reconsidered her career when a terminally ill friend believed she would receive better treatment if it was coming from a female doctor.
5. She died from a stroke. In 1907, she fell down a flight of stairs in Scotland, and was left almost completely mentally and physically disabled. On May 31, 1910, she died in her Hastings, Sussex home after suffering a stroke that paralyzed half her body.
HollywoodLifers, what were you most surprised to learn about Elizabeth?