Elizabeth Blackwell Lesson for Kids: Biography & Facts

Instructor: Abby Federico

Abby has taught elementary special education and has her master's degree in this area.

This lesson will teach you about Elizabeth Blackwell and her journey through obstacles to become the first female to earn a medical degree in the United States.

Early Life

Imagine knowing what you wanted to be, but then finding out there were no schools that would teach you! This happened to a woman named Elizabeth Blackwell, but she never gave up the pursuit of her dreams.

Elizabeth Blackwell was born in England on February 3, 1821. When Elizabeth was 11 years old, she and her family moved to the United States. Elizabeth's parents thought that education was very important, and Elizabeth decided that she wanted to go to school to become a doctor. However, there was a big problem - none of the medical schools in the U.S. would allow women!

Elizabeth Blackwell
Elizabeth Blackwell

Becoming a Doctor

Even though women were not allowed to study at medical schools, Elizabeth still wanted to be a doctor and refused to give up on her dream. Elizabeth had family friends who were doctors and allowed her to study with them. While she was doing this, she was also applying to many medical schools, hoping one of them would let her in.

In 1847, she was finally accepted into the Geneva Medical College in New York. The school had decided to let the students vote on whether to accept Elizabeth (they assumed the students would vote 'no'), and were surprised when the students decided to play a joke and vote 'yes' to let Elizabeth in. Elizabeth had a tough time at first, as some students and staff thought that she did not belong there. However, she kept working hard and eventually began to earn respect. In 1849, Elizabeth became the first female to graduate with a medical degree from a U.S. medical school. This meant that she was now a doctor and could legally practice medicine.

Practicing Medicine

After graduating, Elizabeth traveled to England and France to work and study more. She began studying at a famous French hospital to become an obstetrician, or a doctor that works with pregnancies and childbirth. However, after delivering a baby that had a disease, Elizabeth unfortunately caught the disease and became blinded in one eye. She decided to travel back to New York.

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