GirlMogul – A Profile – Elizabeth Blackwell


Elizabeth Blackwell (February 3, 1821 – May 31, 1910) was the first female doctor in the United States. She was the first woman to graduate from medical school (M.D.) and one of the first to teach other women to become doctors.

Elizabeth was born in England one of nine children.  Her father was a wealthy man and believed that his daughters should have the same education as his sons.

In 1832, the family immigrated to the United States, and set up living.  After a short time in the United States, Elizabeth’s father died and she went to Kentucky to teach to make money for medical school.  To help start, she took up residence in a physician’s household, using her time there to study from the family’s medical library.

In 1845 she went to North Carolina where she read medicine in the home of Dr. John Dickson. Afterward, she read with his brother Dr. Samuel Henry Dickson in Charleston, South Carolina.

She attended Geneva College in New York. She was accepted there almost as a joke – the male student body thought her application a hoax and voted on it. She braved the prejudice of some of the professors and students to complete her training. Blackwell overcame taunts and prejudice from the faculty as well as from her fellow students while at medical school. Blackwell is said to have replied that if the instructor was upset by the fact that Student No. 156 wore a bonnet, she would be pleased to remove her conspicuous headgear and take a seat at the rear of the classroom, but that she would not voluntarily absent herself from a lecture.

On January 11, 1849, she became the first woman to earn a medical degree in the United States, graduating at the top of her class…so there, silly Boys!

Banned from practice in most hospitals she decided to go to Paris, France, but while she was there her training was cut short when she caught a terrible eye infection from a baby she was treating. She had her eye removed and replaced with a glass eye. In 1857 Elizabeth founded her own infirmary, named the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children, in 1857. She passed along her training to other women, who then became nurses, and in 1868 she founded a Womens’ Medical College at the Infirmary to train women, physicians, and doctors. American hospitals refused to hire her, so she opened a clinic in New York City where she was joined by her sister Dr. Emily Blackwell and Dr. Maria Zakrzewska.

In 1869 she left her sister Emily in charge of the College and returned to England. There, with Florence Nightingale, she opened the Womens’ Medical College. Blackwell taught at the newly created London School of Medicine for Women and became the first female physician and doctor in the UK Medical Register. She retired at the age of 86.

Elizabeth Blackwell had adopted a daughter (an Irish immigrant) in England, her name was Katherine Barry. Elizabeth had called her Kitty. She was eight years old when she was first adopted and stayed with Elizabeth for the rest of her life.

Keep checking back for more profiles of GirlMoguls – through the ages.

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Maria Mitchell – Astonomy Pioneer


The above is a picture of Maria Mitchell, one of the first female America astronomers.  She discovered a comet, and the Mitchell crater on the moon is named after her.    She was born in 1818 in Nantucket, Massachusetts, one of nine children of a family of Quakers.  Quakers believed that boys and girls should receive an equal education. Maria’s father was a schoolmaster, and Maria served as his teaching assistant and he taught her astronomy at home. At age twelve and a half, she aided her father in calculating the exact moment of total eclipse.

Using a telescope, she discovered “Miss Mitchell’s Comet” (Comet 1847 VI, modern designation is C/1847 T1) in the autumn of 1847. Some years previously, King Frederick VI of Denmark had established gold medal prizes to each discoverer of a “telescopic comet” (too faint to be seen with the naked eye). The prize was to be awarded to the “first discoverer” of each such comet (note that comets are often independently discovered by more than one person). She duly won one of these prizes, and this gave her worldwide fame, since the only previous woman to discover a comet had been Caroline Herschel.

She was the first professional woman astronomer in the United States, noted for her discovery that sunspots are whirling vertical cavities and not, as previously thought, clouds.

She became the first woman member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1848 and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1850. She later worked at the U.S. Nautical Almanac Office, calculating tables of positions of Venus, and traveled in Europe with Nathaniel Hawthorne and his family.

She became professor of astronomy at Vassar College in 1865, the first person (male or female) appointed to the faculty. She was also named as Director of the Vassar College Observatory. After teaching there for some time, she learned that despite her reputation and experience, her salary was less than that of many younger male professors. She insisted on a salary increase, and got it.

She died in June 28, 1889, at the age of 71, in Lynn, Massachusetts. She was buried in Lot 411, Prospect Hill Cemetery, Nantucket. The Maria Mitchell Observatory in Nantucket is named in her honor. She was also posthumously inducted into the U.S. National Women’s Hall of Fame. She was the namesake of a World War II Liberty ship, the SS Maria Mitchell. Mitchell crater on the moon is named for her. In 1902, the Maria Mitchell Association was founded in her memory She is also known for her famous quote, “We have a hunger of the mind. We ask for all of the knowledge around us and the more we get, the more we desire.”

So welcome Maria Mitchell to the GirlMogul hall of fame.

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Thanks to Wikipedia for facts on Maria Mitchell.

Quote of the day – Courage

“I would urge you to be as impudent as you dare. BE BOLD, BE BOLD, BE BOLD.”  Susan Sontag, writer.

It’s Friday and a beautiful day out there girls, so take this message to heart.  Spring is awakening out there and it’s the perfect opportunity to re-awaken yourself.  Taking bold steps helps us move forward – one bold step can move us ahead that a series of little steps.  Remember – look before you leap, but not for too long – make sure there are no alligators in the way!

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Quote of the Day – Believing

“It looks impossible until you do it, and then you find it is possible.” – Evelyn Underhill, mystic

If you have ever dreamed of doing something or making something, or being something, chances are someone else has done it before you.  And guess what, if they can do it, in most cases you can do (yes there are limits…physical, abilities), but in general if someone else has accomplished something you aspire to, then the good news is – it is possible.  Try to figure out what that person did – was it education, special training, or practice and try to do that.  Or better yet – choose the first rung of the ladder and aim for that – so if someone climbed a mountain and you want to do that, start with the hill.  Once you conquer the hill – you’ll see that it is possible.  Turning smaller goals into realities sets the basis for more “impossible” goals to become realities – you build a foundation store for success.

So go for it.

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