Emily Blackwell
BornOctober 8, 1826
Bristol, England
DiedSeptember 7, 1910(1910-09-07) (aged 83)
EducationWestern Reserve
Alma materCase Western Reserve University
Medical career

Emily Blackwell (October 8, 1826 – September 7, 1910) was the second woman to earn a medical degree at what is now Case Western Reserve University, after Nancy Talbot Clark.[1][2] In 1993, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.[3]

Early Life and Education

Blackwell was born on October 8, 1826, in Bristol, England. In 1832, Blackwell and her family emigrated to the United States, and in 1837, they settled near Cincinnati, Ohio.

Inspired by the example of her older sister, Elizabeth, Blackwell applied to study medicine at Geneva Medical College in Geneva, New York, from which her sister graduated in 1849, but was rejected. After being rejected by several other schools, she was finally accepted in 1853 by Rush Medical College in Chicago, where she studied for a year. However, in 1853, when male students complained about having to study with a woman, the Illinois Medical Society vetoed her admission. Eventually, she was accepted to the Medical College of Cleveland, Ohio, Medical Branch of Western Reserve University, earning her Doctor of Medicine in 1854.[4]

At Western Reserve University, the medical education of women began at the urging of Dean John Delamater, who was backed by the Ohio Female Medical Education Society, formed in 1852 to provide moral and financial support for the women medical students. Despite their efforts, the Western Reserve faculty voted to put an end to Delamater's policies in 1856, finding it "inexpedient" to continue admitting women. (The American Medical Association also adopted a report in 1856 advising against coeducation in medicine.) Western Reserve resumed admitting women in 1879, but did so only sporadically for five years. Admission of women at Western Reserve recommenced on a continuous basis in 1918.

After earning her medical degree, Blackwell pursued further studies in Edinburgh under Sir James Young Simpson, in London under Dr. William Jenner, and in Paris, Berlin, and Dresden.

The Woman's Medical College of the New York Infirmary. [Announcement, 1868–69].


In 1857, Blackwell, along with her sister Elizabeth and Marie Zakrzewska, established the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children. From the beginning, Emily Blackwell took responsibility for the management of the infirmary and for the raising of funds. For the next forty years, she managed the infirmary, overseeing surgery, nursing, and bookkeeping. Blackwell traveled to Albany to convince the legislature to provide the hospital with funds that would ensure long-term financial stability. She transformed an institution housed in a rented 16-room house into a full-fledged hospital. By 1874, the infirmary served over 7,000 patients annually.

During the American Civil War, Blackwell helped organize the Women's Central Association of Relief, which selected and trained nurses for service in the war. Emily and Elizabeth Blackwell and Mary Livermore also played an important role in the development of the United States Sanitary Commission.

Dr. Emily Blackwell, ca. 1860s

After the war, in 1868 the Blackwell sisters established the Women's Medical College in New York City. Emily became professor of obstetrics and in 1869, when Elizabeth moved to London to help form the London School of Medicine for Women, became dean of the college. In 1876 it became a three-year institution, and in 1893 it became a four-year college, ahead of much of the profession. By 1899 the college had trained 364 women doctors.

Blackwell and Cushier's house in Montclair, NJ

From 1883, Blackwell lived with her partner Elizabeth Cushier, who also served as a doctor at the infirmary.[5] Blackwell and Cushier retired at the turn of the century. After traveling abroad for a year and a half, they spent the next winters at their home in Montclair, New Jersey, and summers in Maine.[6] Blackwell died on September 7, 1910, in York Cliffs, Maine, a few months after her sister Elizabeth's death in England.[7]


  1. ^ "Dr. Emily Blackwell." Retrieved: October 23, 2013.
  2. ^ Nimura, Janice P. (2021). The doctors Blackwell : how two pioneering sisters brought medicine to women--and women to medicine (First ed.). New York, N.Y. ISBN 978-0-393-63554-6. OCLC 1155067347.
  3. ^ National Women's Hall of Fame, Emily Blackwell
  4. ^ Kelly, Howard A.; Burrage, Walter L. (eds.). "Blackwell, Emily" . American Medical Biographies . Baltimore: The Norman, Remington Company.
  5. ^ Faderman, Lillian (2000). To Believe in Women. Mariner Books. pp. 6, 289–290. ISBN 978-0-618-05697-2.
  6. ^ Faderman (2000), p. 289
  7. ^ "Dr. Emily Blackwell Dead" (PDF). The New York Times. September 9, 1910. Retrieved 2007-06-21. One of Founders of First Women's Hospital In America.

Further reading