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That Girl There Is Doctor Is Medicine. Elizabeth Blackwell, America's First Woman M.D. written in white lettering.

"This event will stand forth hereafter as a memorable example of what women can undertake and accomplish, too." Charles A. Lee

Graduation

Exterior view of the front and right side of the Presbyterian Church, Geneva, N.Y; trees cover the ground surrounding the church.

Presbyterian Church, Geneva, N.Y.
Geneva Historical Society, Geneva, N.Y.

The academic career begun with such difficulty was completed in triumph. Elizabeth had gained the support of the students, faculty, and townspeople, and graduated first in her class. Her brother Henry, who attended the graduation ceremony held in the Presbyterian church in Geneva, described it in a letter to his family:

Geneva, January 23d 1849
Beloved Relatives

The important crisis is past - the great occasion over - the object of so much & so justifiable anticipation has been attained ... About half past 10 o'clock E. & I walked up to the church ... it was arranged that Eliz. & I should sit down at the entrance of the left aisle and join the procession as it came up ... We found the church - galleries and all, crowded with ladies, they only having been as yet admitted & of course when we came in there was a general stir & murmur & everybody turned to look at us. By the time the procession came up- all the pews except those reserved for them were filled ... After a short discourse by Dr. Hale the President - the diplomas were conferred - 4 being called at a time - and ascending the steps to the platform the President addressed them in a latin formula - taking off his hat, but remaining seated - & so handed them their diplomas, which they received with a bow & retired. Eliz. was left to the last & called up alone - the President taking off his hat, rose & addressing her in the same formula - substituting Domina for Domine, presented her the diploma - whereupon our Sis. who had walked up & stood before him with much dignity bowed & half turned to retire but suddenly turning back replied Sir I thank you - by the help of the Most High, it shall be the effort of my life to shed honour upon your diploma - whereupon she bowed & the President bowed - the audience gave manifestations of applause - little Dr. Webster rubbed his hands - the learned curators & faculty nodded grave approbation at each other upon the platform & our Sis. descending the steps took her seat with her fellow-physicians in front ....

Yours ever, HBB


Page 30 of Circular of the Medical Institution of Geneva College listing the graduates of the institution for 1848 and 1849 which includes Elizabeth Blackwell.

Circular of the Medical Institution of
Geneva College, Spring Course, 1850

Rochester: Jerone & Brother, 1849
National Library of Medicine

Black and white copy of Elizabeth Blackwell's Geneva Medical College diploma.

Elizabeth Blackwell's Geneva Medical College diploma
Glasgow University Archives


Head and shoulders, left side pose of Charles A. Lee.

Charles A. Lee, 1801-1872.
Professor of Materia Medica and General Pathology
and Dean of Geneva Medical College.
Geneva Historical Society

In his graduation address to the 1849 medical class, Charles Lee, Dean of Geneva Medical College, referred to the extraordinary event of the day and declared his wholehearted admiration for the first female M.D. However, when he had the graduation address printed he added a footnote stating that, though he supported medical education for qualified women, the "inconveniences attending the admission of females to all the lectures in a medical school, are so great, that he will feel compelled on all future occasions to oppose such a practice ..."

Title page of Charles A. Lee's Valedictory Address to the Graduating Class of Geneva Medical College at the Public Commencement, January 23, 1849.

Page 26 of Charles A. Lee's Valedictory Address to the Graduating Class of Geneva Medical College featuring his comments on Elizabeth Blackwell receiving her medical degree.
Page 27 of Charles A. Lee's Valedictory Address to the Graduating Class of Geneva Medical College featuring his comments on Elizabeth Blackwell receiving her medical degree.
Page 26 of Charles A. Lee's Valedictory Address to the Graduating Class of Geneva Medical College featuring his comments on Elizabeth Blackwell receiving her medical degree.

Charles A. Lee.
Valedictory Address to the Graduating Class of Geneva Medical College at the Public Commencement,
Jan. 23, 1849

Buffalo: Jewett, Thomas, 1849
National Library of Medicine


The press, nationally and internationally, took notice of the first bestowal of a medical degree on a woman. Most reactions were neutral or positive, if mildly condescending, but a letter in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal of February 21, 1849, roundly condemned "the farce, enacted at the Geneva Medical College." The writer concluded "as this is the first case of the kind that has been perpetrated either in Europe or America, I hope, for the honor of humanity, that it will be the last" and called upon the medical profession "to teach other similar institutions the impropriety of following the example." For the most part, most medical institutions heeded his appeal.

Page 25 of the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal featuring Elizabeth Blackwell's graduation notice. Page 26 of the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal featuring Elizabeth Blackwell's graduation notice.

Elizabeth Blackwell's Graduation Notice
Boston Medical Journal and Monthly Review of Medical and Surgical Science,
vol. 4 (Feb. 1849)
National Library of Medicine


Pages 58 and 59 of the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal featuring an unflattering article about Elizabeth Blackwell receiving her medical degree titled The Late Medical Degree to a Female by D. K.

[Unfavorable Notice]
Boston Medical and Surgical Journal,
vol. 40 (Feb. 7, 1849)
National Library of Medicine

An article on page 87 of the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal titled The late Medical Degree at Geneva by Justus which features a favorable response to condemnation letter by D. K. in the February 21, 1849 issue.

[Favorable response to condemnation letter]
Boston Medical Journal
National Library of Medicine


Anonymous poem titled An M.D. in a Gown from the June 2, 1849 issue of Punch about Elizabeth Blackwell's receiving a medical degree.

Punch, 1849
Courtesy Library of Congress

Article titled Elizabeth Blackwell, M.D. from the newspaper The National Era published April 2, 1849.

The National Era, Apr. 2, 1849
Courtesy Library of Congress


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