Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) became the first American woman to receive a medical degree in 1849, when she graduated first in her class from Geneva Medical College in New York. After continuing her studies in Europe, she returned to the United States and founded the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children in 1853.
During the Civil War Dr. Blackwell trained women to be nurses for the Union Army. She noted how many women were interested in medicine but were denied admittance to predominantly male medical schools. She promptly opened the Woman’s Medical College of New York in 1868, and then created a similar school in England. After her retirement, Dr. Blackwell remained active in the women’s rights movement and was a prolific writer, publishing several books on disease and hygiene.