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Elizabeth Blackwell family papers

Identifier: SC-73

Scope and Contents

This collection contains several publication by Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell as well as several letters she sent to family members. In addition to the materials related directly to Dr. Blackwell are materials related to other members of the Blackwell family including Alice Stone Blackwell and Howard and Hannah Blackwell.


  • 1848, 1869-1948


Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on accessing material in this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply. Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.

Biographical Note

Elizabeth Blackwell was born on February 3, 1821, near Bristol, England, to Hannah Lane and Samuel Blackwell, a sugar-refiner, Quaker, and anti-slavery activist. Elizabeth was the third of nine children. In 1832, at age 11, Elizabeth moved with her family to America, settling in Cincinnati, Ohio.

After working for a time as a teacher, Elizabeth Blackwell set her sights on a career in medicine. She applied to 29 medical schools before she was accepted to Geneva Medical College in 1847. Upon receiving an application for admittance from a woman, the faculty of Geneva Medical College requested a vote from the student body on whether or not to admit her, which they felt confident would never vote to admit a female student. Whether they voted “yes” thinking the whole situation was a practical joke or as a joke on the faculty who they could see were troubled over the possibility of admitting a woman to the college is unclear; however, it was from this vote that Elizabeth was granted admittance to the school. Over the next two years of her studies, Elizabeth worked her way to the top of the class and graduated on January 23, 1849. In doing so, she became the first woman in America to graduate with a medical degree.

Elizabeth spent much of her life working in medicine and promoting the inclusion of women in that field though it was not always an easy path. Because she was a woman, she had a difficult time finding employment or establishing patients in hospitals or clinics. In 1851, she opened a small clinic in New York City to treat poor women; several years later, in 1857, Elizabeth and her sister Emily Blackwell (who had also pursued and earned a medical degree) together with Dr. Marie Zakrzewska opened the New York Infirmary for Women and Children.

As her health declined in the 1870s, Elizabeth gave up the practice of medicine, though she remained an advocate for reform and active in medical education. Having returned to England in the late 1860s, Elizabeth became a professor of gynecology at the London School of Medicine for Women. She also authored several books and other publications throughout her life on various topics in the field of medicine. Her autobiography, Pioneer Work in Opening the Medical Profession to Women, was published in 1895.


1.5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Elizabeth Blackwell is a 1849 graduate of the Geneva Medical College making her the first woman in the United States to obtain a medical degree. She spent much of her following career advocating for women's access to the field of medicine as well as women's medical care. This collection contains several pamphlets authored by Dr. Blackwell in addition to materials related to other members of the Blackwell family.


This collection is arranged in the following series:

  1. Published materials
  2. Correspondence
  3. Photographs and negatives
  4. Other materials


Box 1: Archives Storage / Range 12B / Section 1; Box 2: Archives Office / Section 7


The materials in this collection were purchased by the Hobart and William Smith Colleges Office of the President (Joyce P. Jacobsen administration) in December 2019.

Elizabeth Black family papers: A Finding Aid
Tricia McEldowney, Archivist
March 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Hobart and William Smith Colleges Archives and Special Collections Repository

Warren Hunting Smith Library
Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Geneva New York 14456 U.S.A. US (United States)