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Valuing Elizabeth Blackwell

Elizabeth Blackwell colour edit

23 January 2020

Elizabeth Blackwell obtained her medical degree on 23 January 1849, becoming the first ever female doctor. Over 170 years later as many women as men are now entering medical school. She stood for equality on all fronts and her vision to achieve good health for all epitomises what the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute is striving to achieve today.

Many of us have heard of Florence Nightingale and her achievements, yet despite all of Elizabeth Blackwell’s pioneering hard work she remains relatively unknown in the UK. The Elizabeth Blackwell Institute aims to ensure that her many achievements are better understood and that her ambitions for equality in healthcare are continued today.

Bristol born

Born in Bristol in 1821, Elizabeth and her family emigrated to America when she was 11 years old. When a family friend became terminally ill and claimed she would have received more considerate treatment from a female doctor, Elizabeth became determined to train as a physician.

She applied to numerous medical colleges but being a woman was rejected by all but one. As a joke Geneva Medical College in New York voted to admit her in 1847 and two years later, after facing much resentment and prejudice, she obtained her medical degree.

Shared values

Elizabeth Blackwell’s values to ensure equality and make a difference are reflected in the Institute's values today.

  • We nurture research for health by providing a springboard for excellent researchers and their pioneering projects.
  • We help novel ideas thrive by bringing people together from different research backgrounds, encouraging collaborative working.
  • We champion and challenge equality, diversity and inclusion, creating research environments that are open to all.
  • We want our research to make a lasting contribution in the world and a positive change to people’s lives

Her legacy lives on

Elizabeth Blackwell was a pioneer, instrumental in many campaigns for reform, launching numerous innovative health schemes and a tireless worker for health care. We aim to emulate Elizabeth’s drive and focus on equality and to continue to remodel society as a legacy to Dr Elizabeth Blackwell.

Watch a film about Elizabeth Blackwell's life

Further information

Find out more about Elizabeth Blackwell.

Find out more about our work to champion equality, diversity and inclusion.

Read more about our values, vision and mission.

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