Elizabeth Blackwell was born in 1821 near Bristol, England. When she was eleven, a fire destroyed her father's business and her family moved to New York City. In the following years, they moved around a lot. They found themselves in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1835 and Cincinnati, Ohio in 1838, where her father died. After her father's death, Elizabeth and her family opened a private school in order to support the family.
Elizabeth also taught at a school in Kentucky, although she soon tired of the boring routine and decided to go into medicine, becoming a surgeon. So, she was privately tutored by male doctors and also applied to such colleges as Yale, Harvard, and Bowdoin. Yet, she was turned down because she was a woman.
However, in 1848, she was accepted by Geneva College in western New York state. That summer, she attended a program put on by Philadelphia Hospital and practiced medicine for the first time. She graduated from Geneva College in 1849, the first women to have a medical degree, and also became a United States citizen.
Elizabeth traveled back to Europe and while in Paris, she attended and completed a midwife course. However, she also contracted the eye disease called ophthalmia, which left one of her eyes blind and severely crushed her dream of becoming a surgeon. However, she wouldn't give up her goal of helping people. She went back to New York in 1851 and adopted an orphan named Katharine "Kitty" Barry. She spent a lot of her time writing papers on good hygiene's importance, and managed to catch the eye of a Quaker organization which began to refer patients to her.
Because of her many patients, Elizabeth opened an office in a run-down house in New York in 1853. Her sister Emily and a Dr. Marie Zakrzewska helped out with the patients, and this office became the New York Infirmary for Women and Children.
In 1858, Elizabeth returned to England and became the first woman on the Medical Register of the United Kingdom. In 1868, she established the Women's Medical College of the New York Infirmary, returning to New York in 1869. In 1871, she created the National Health Society, and in 1875, Elizabeth became a professor of gynecology at the Royal Free Hospital (then called the New Hospital) of the London School of Medicine for Women. Elizabeth died at 89 years of age in 1910.
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