Elizabeth Blackwell: The First Woman in America to Receive a Medical Degree

By Phin Upham

Elizabeth Blackwell was a socially isolated young girl when she was growing up in Gloucestershire, England. Her father, Samuel Blackwell, was devoted to the idea that his children should have ample opportunity to learn and grow. As a result, he hired multiple tutors and teachers to help in the development of his daughter. Unfortunately, her social life paid a price.

A friend from Cincinnati, who some suspect was dying of uterine cancer, was venting to her one day when the idea to enter into medical school popped into Blackwell’s head. This friend told Elizabeth that women were motherly figures, and would make better doctors than men as a result. She also remarked that had a woman taken care of her, her treatment would have been much more comfortable.

Blackwell was intrigued, but found that she could barely look at a medical book and hated all things connected to bodily functions. Another major speed bump in her way was the mistaken assumption that all “female doctors” were code names for those performing abortions.

Eventually, Blackwell was accepted as a student of Hobart Medical College in 1847. He acceptance was something of a mistake, but she managed to entre successfully. The deans and administrators of the college were unable to come to a decision regarding her admission, and so 150 students (all male) were chosen from the student body. They were told that if even one student dissented, Blackwell would be denied entry. The students thought it was a ridiculous request and voted unanimously to accept her. Two years later, Blackwell became the first woman in the United States to earn a medical degree.

About the Author: Phin Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Phin Upham website or Facebook page.