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Elizabeth Blackwell

Exerpts from A History of New York City to 1898

Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace
New York Oxford, Oxford University Press 1999

Page 800, Emporium and Manufacturing City (1844-1879)

Those who did receive medical training attended unorthodox institutions, like the New York Hydropathic and Physiological School, which in 1856 graduated thirty males and twenty females. Such women could be dismissed as quacks. Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell could not.

Blackwell, an English immigrant, had gotten into an upstate medical school and received the first American M.D. degree ever conferred on a woman. But when she returned to New York City in 1851, physicians prevented her from practicing in city hospitals and dispensaries, and she became the target of hate mail. In 1853 Blackwell opened what would become the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, in a one-room dispensary on 7th Street near Tompkins Square. She would be assisted by Dr. Marie Zachrzewska, former chief midwife of Prussia’s largest hospital, who had emigrated to New York City convinced that "only in a republic can it be proved that science has no sex." Poor women flocked from all over Manhattan and Brooklyn to this first medical charity in the United States staffed by female physicians. The New York Infirmary took root, despite vitriolic opposition from the city’s male medicos, though its efforts to add a women’s medical college would be thwarted until 1868. It would be the Women’s Hospital of New York (1855), organized by male physicians to treat female disorders, that would receive significant appropriations of money and land from state and city.

Page 880

The genesis of the U.S. Sanitary Commission lay in the response of northern women to the outbreak of war. By 1861 thousands of ladies, exhorted by women’s magazines, had gathered at one another’s homes or in churches to make bandages for the troops. Upper-class ladies worked for the Seventh Regiment at George Templeton Strong’s, and Henry Ward Beecher’s church kept a dozen sewing machines going. In addition, Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, seeing the need for nurses, began giving two-month training courses in her infirmary, and at Bellevue or New York Hospital, then sending volunteers on to Washington.

Soon, several elite women decided these efforts needed coordination. Dr. Blackwell joined with Mrs. William Cullen Bryant, Mrs. Peter Cooper, and "Ninety-Two of the Most Respected Ladies" in calling for an oversight organization. On April 26 four thousand women gathered at the Cooper Union to form the Women’s Central Association of Relief for the Sick and Wounded of the Army. The twenty-four-year-old Louisa lee Schuyler, a member of the Rev. Henry Bellow’s fashionable All Souls Unitarian Church on Gramercy Park, became the key organizer.

Page 1176 Industrial Center and Corporate Command Post (1880-1898)

…Wald, raised in a comfortable bourgeois Rochester family, came to study at New York hospital’s School of Nursing in 1889. After graduating in 1891 she worked for a year at an orphan asylum, enrolled for a time in Elizabeth Blackwell’s Women’s Medical College, then taught a course in home nursing at an East Side program run by Mrs. Loeb.