Elizabeth sat at her friend's bedside, holding her hand. “What did the doctor say?” she asked. “The doctor hasn't told me much of much of anything,” the friend replied. “But I don't seem to be getting any better. The pain is much worse, but I could bear it if only the doctor would be more understanding.” She sighed, looking up at Elizabeth. “He is a rather cold man. The examinations are so humiliating and painful. If only my doctor were a woman, I'm sure it would be much different.”
Elizabeth thoughtfully stroked her friend's hand. Although no one would admit it, her friend was dying of uterine cancer. And they both knew that there wasn't any such thing as a female doctor. It was 1846, and only men were allowed to be doctors back then. She had to agree with her friend, though. A woman would be motherly, and more gentle.
A few months later, at her friend's funeral, she thought about it more. What if she, Elizabeth Blackwell, would become the first woman to graduate from medical school? Was that even possible? Her father, who had brought their family to the U.S. from England when she was just 11 years old, had died seven years ago, leaving her (now 17), her mother and her eight siblings with a pile of debts to pay. Even if she could afford it, the idea did not even appeal to her. But she decided to give it a try.
After many rejections, she was finally accepted at Geneva Medical College in New York, after the students there voted to admit her as a joke. Two years later she graduated, becoming the first female doctor. She continued studying in Europe, although an infection that partly blinded her ended her dream of becoming a surgeon. Finding even more prejudice there than in the United States, she moved her practice back to New York, where she treated low-income women and children. After starting a women's medical college, she returned to England, where she had been born, and died there in 1910.
The door that had been shut against women as doctors was now open due to the hard work of one brave, determined woman.