Cambridge Encyclopedia » Cambridge Encyclopedia Vol. 23

Emily Blackwell - Obstacles

medical sister elizabeth college

Physician, born in Bristol, SW England, UK. Emigrating with her family to the USA (1832), she was the product of a progressive education for the time and very much influenced by her older sister Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman in modern times to receive a medical degree. Although extremely shy, she followed her sister into medicine. She was turned down by 11 medical schools, including Elizabeth's alma mater in Geneva, New York, and was forced to leave Rush Medical College in Chicago (1852) after the state medical society censured the school for admitting a woman. She eventually graduated from Western Reserve University in Cleveland (1854). She is best known for assisting Elizabeth with the development of the New York Infirmary for Women and Children. Noted for her pragmatism and administrative skills, Emily is credited with transforming a clinic into a working hospital. She was left in charge of the institution (1858) when her sister pursued opportunities overseas, and later headed the hospital's medical school (1869), serving as dean and professor of gynaecology (1869–99). A believer in coeducation, she disbanded the Women's Medical College when Cornell University Medical College admitted women (1898). Like her sister she was active in the social purity movement and never married.

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