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First Woman Doctor in America

Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman doctor in America, started her practice in New York in 1851. Not only was she unable to find patients—no one would even rent her a room once she mentioned that she was a doctor. After weeks of trudging the streets, she finally rented rooms from a landlady who asked no questions about what Elizabeth planned to do with them.

Quaker women, who had always been receptive to the goal of equal rights, became Elizabeth’s first patients. But no hospital would allow her on its staff. Finally, with financial help from her Quaker fiends, Elizabeth opened her own clinic in one of new York’s worst slums. the clinic opened in March, 1853. Elizabeth hung a sign out announcing that all patients would be treated free. Yet, for the first few weeks, no one showed up. Then one day a woman in such agony that she didn’t care who treated her, staggered up the steps and collapsed in Elizabeth’s arms.

When the woman was treated and recovered, she told all her friends about the wonderful woman doctor in downtown New York. The dispensary was soon doing well. It eventually expanded, moved, and is now a branch of the New York Infirmary on East Fifteenth Street.

Bits & Pieces, August 22, 1991

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