The Doctors Blackwell: How Two Pioneering Sisters Brought Medicine to Women—and Women to Medicine

Janice P. Nimura. Norton, $27.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-393-63554-6
Historian Nimura (Daughters of the Samurai) probes the lives of the pioneering Blackwell sisters, Elizabeth (1821–1910) and Emily (1826–1910), in a captivating biography. The author charts the ambitious Elizabeth’s path, as she became the first woman to receive a medical degree from an American medical college, at Geneva College in 1849, and went on to further study medicine in England and work at a maternity hospital in France, where an infection cost her her left eye and, thus, surgical career. The elder Blackwell sister emerges as an impressive but intimidating figure, a rigid idealist who equated illness with moral weakness and who disdained the suffrage movement even as she did much to advance the state of women. As Emily follows in her sister’s footsteps, she is depicted more endearingly, as having a genuine interest in her patients and the “daily, steady effort of medical practice” that Elizabeth lacked. Though Emily often labored in her strong-willed sister’s shadow, she was instrumental, Nimura argues, in the success of their New York Infirmary, founded in 1857. In recounting the lives of two ambitious figures who opened doors for many who came after them, Nimura casts a thoughtful and revelatory new light onto women’s and medical history. (Jan.)
Reviewed on : 08/26/2020
Release date: 01/19/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Library Binding - 586 pages - 978-1-4328-8712-4
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-1-324-02020-2
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