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American Women: Resources from the Manuscript Collections

The Blackwell Sisters

Letter, Elizabeth Blackwell to Baroness Anne Isabella Milbanke Byron concerning women's rights and the education of women physicians. March 4, 1851. Blackwell Family Papers. Library of Congress Manuscript Division.

Having completed her medical education at Geneva College in west central New York in 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) is widely considered to be the first American woman to receive an academic medical degree. Her papers, part of the larger Blackwell Family papers (29,000 items; 1759-1960; bulk 1845-90), describe her pioneering efforts to open the medical profession to women, including her difficulties in establishing in 1854 the New York Infirmary for Women and Children with her sister Dr. Emily Blackwell (1826-1910) and their colleague Dr. Marie Zakrzewska and her struggle fifteen years later to found a women's medical college in the United States. Elizabeth and Emily wrote numerous pieces on women's health concerns, but they also lived up to the family's reputation for producing reformers and strong supporters of women's political rights.

Manuscript Resources Referenced

The following collection title links to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content, including finding aids for the collections, are included when available.