On this day in 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) graduated first in her class at Geneva, New York's Medical Institution, becoming the first woman to graduate from medical school and the modern era's first woman doctor.
In her journal, Blackwell called the day, "bright and beautiful and very gratifying."
Turned down by all the major medical schools in the nation because she was a woman, she overcame the adversity from students and faculty with determination. "If society will not admit of woman's free development, then society must be remodeled," she said.
Born in Bristol, England, Blackwell inherited her resolve from her parents. Both campaigned for reform against slavery and in support of the women's movement.
"Methods and conclusions formed by half the race only, must necessarily require revision as the other half of humanity rises into conscious responsibility," she said.
With continued commitment, Blackwell completed her postgraduate medical studies in Paris and London, where she met her "most valued acquaintance" Florence Nightingale, forging a life-long friendship.
With optimistic spirit, Blackwell returned to New York in 1851 and overcome the gender prejudices she encountered by establishing her own clinic there. Her sister Emily, also a doctor, joined the clinic and in 1868 the Blackwells opened the world's first medical school for women.
"Why think small?" she said. "I know I can do it; the money can be found."
Ever the pioneer, in 1875 she was appointed professor of gynecology at the School of Medicine in London.
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