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January 23

Compiled and Written by Irene Stuber
who is solely responsible for its content.
This document has been taken from emailed versions
of Women of Achievement. The complete episode
will be published here in the future.

She was refused admittance to 29 medical schools


QUOTE by Barbara Bush.

Elizabeth Blackwell

      Event 01-23-1849, Elizabeth Blackwell, graduated medical school to become the first woman physician in the history of the US. She had been turned down by 29 medical schools and only got into the one at Geneva, NY, because the students thought her application a joke.
      "I had not the slightest idea of the commotion created by my appearance as a medical student in the little town. Very slowly I perceived that a doctor's wife at the table avoided any communication with me, and that as I walked... to college the ladies stopped to stare at me as at a curious animal. I afterwards found that I had shocked Geneva propriety that the theory was fully established either that I was a bad woman, whose designs would gradually become evident, or that, being insane, an outbreak of insanity would soon be apparent.
      "Feeling the unfriendliness of the people, though quite unaware of all this gossip, I never walked abroad, but hastening daily to my college as a sure refuge, I knew when I shut the great doors behind me that I shut out all unkindly criticisms..."
      In 1849, upon graduation, Elizabeth Blackwell who exhibited no insanity nor did she reveal herself a "bad" woman - but rather an intelligent, hardworking student who finished near the top of her class to became the first woman doctor in the United States. Following graduation she went to New York City to set up a medical practice.       Hospitals refused to let her patients in. Landlords refused to rent her an office. Other doctors shunned her. She wrote:
      "The first seven years of New York life were years of very difficult, though steady, uphill work. Patients came very slowly to consult me. I had no medical companionship, the profession stood aloof, and society was distrustful of the innovation. Insolent letters occasionally came by post, and my pecuniary position was a source of constant anxiety."
      She went back to her homeland of England to study more, contracted ophthalmia from a baby and lost her sight in one eye. In 1851 she returned to New York and by l857 raised enough money (primarily from women) to buy a building and open the New York Infirmary for Women and Children. The hospital was staffed by Elizabeth Blackwell, her sister, Dr. Emily Blackwell and Dr. Marie E. Zakrzewska and was the first time a woman was examined by a woman. The era of moderm medical care for women really began.
      Nine years later she opened the Women's Medical College of New York Infirmary, the first medical school for women.

      The first black woman to receive medical training in the U.S. was Rebecca Lee. She completed a 17-week course at the New England Female Medical College in Boston. In 1870, Susa Smith McKinney Steward became the first black woman to actually earn an M.D. Not only did she graduate, but she graduated valedictorian of her class at the New York Medical College for Women. She did post graduate studies at the Long Island College Hospital as the only woman student. Her practice was so large - treating men, women and children both white and black - that she had to maintain two offices. In 1880, she co-founded a hospital for girls who worked in the New York area sweat shops.

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B. 01-23-1688, Ulrika Eleonora, Swedish queen whose short reign (1718-20) led to Sweden's Age of Freedom. Her influence was profound as she turned the nation toward parliamentary government rather than the absolutism of the royal monarchy.

B. 01-23-1813, Camilla Collett, Norwegian novelist and women's rights advocate. Her philosophy and cry for justice and equality was brilliantly expounded through excellent writing in plots/settings that put women's rights in the perspective of civilization. She was a major influence in the development and scope of Norwegian novelists and Henrik Ibsen acknowledged her influence. She is best known for The Governor's Daughter.

B. 01-23-1837, Amanda Smith, prominent Afro-American evangelist who also preached in Europe, India, and Africa, probably the first woman to preach in India. She created an orphanage for black children in Illinois using the down payment from the sale of her books.

B. 01-23-1861, Katherine Tynan, Irish poet and novelist whose works centered around Roman Catholicism and Irish patriotism.

B. 01-23-1875, Mary Blanche Norton, American physician did unbelievable hard, life-affirming work in war-torn Turkey, often with orphans. Contracted acute Egyptian trachoma while treating 210 orphans at one time for the disease and almost lost her own eyesight. Returned to the U.S. for treatment and remained to specialize in skin diseases.

B. 01-23-1896, Charlotte, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg from 1919 to 1964. As a constitutional queen led the country through the difficult days of World War II and helped it develop into a modern nation.

B. 01-23-1918, Gertrude B. Elion, American scientist. GBE was co-winner of the 1988 Nobel prize for developing the synthesis of drugs that combat such ailments as acute leukemia, gout, and malaria and an immunosuppressant compound that made possible the successful transplantation of organs. She led the development of acyclovir, the first effective treatment for herpes-cirus infections.
      Later, when she was supposedly retired, scientists working under her direction and using her methodology developed AZT, the first FDA drug approved for the treatment of AIDS but she was given very little publicity for her development.
      Her mother was a homemaker whom GBE described as having
"more common sense than anyone I have ever known." Of Jewish descent, she was from a long line of rabbis which dated back to 700 AD according to extent synagogue records.

B. 01-23-1928, Jeanne Moreau, French actor who helped establish the prominence of several French directors including Francois Truffaut by her ability to express endless nuances.

B. 01-23-1933, Chita Rivera, dancer, actor, singer. Tony award actor for her work in The Rink (1984). She was raised by her working, widowed mother.

Event 01-23-1955: The U.S. Presbyterian Church votes to accept women as ministers.

Event 01-23-1982: Debbie Brill, Canadian athlete who proved that pregnancy and motherhood need not end a woman's athletic career. Her son was only five months old when she set a new indoor world broad jump record of 6'6-3/8".

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      "Somewhere out in this audience may even be someone who will one day follow in my footsteps and preside over the White House as the President's spouse. I wish him well."
            -- Barbara Bush, addressing a commencement audience at Wellesley College.

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