America’s First Female Physician

Today we celebrate Elizabeth Blackwell, who was born on February 3, 1821.  Blackwell was the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States, as well as the first woman on the UK Medical Register.

A British-born citizen whose family immigrated to America, Blackwell was raised in a very liberal household.  By the age of 24, she decided to pursue a medical degree, believing that women’s “motherly instincts” might make them better doctors.

But Blackwell met with overwhelming resistance when she tried applying to various medical schools.  She was advised to disguise herself as a man.  She was informed that women were intellectually inferior.  She was even told that she might present the men with unfair competition.

When Blackwell was finally accepted to Geneva Medical College (now Hobart College) in New York, it was purely by accident.  The faculty asked all 150 of its male students to vote on Blackwell’s acceptance, with a single “no” vote sufficient for denial.  The men, believing the entire thing to be a practical joke, voted unanimously to accept her.

Blackwell had a marked impact on the school, elevating the level of both the lectures and the students’ behavior.  She graduated first in her class on January 23, 1849.  When she was awarded her medical degree, the dean stood and bowed to her.

Dr. Blackwell spent her career dealing with constant discrimination while mentoring other women on two continents.  She founded the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children and the London School of Medicine for Women.

Agilent values diversity in its workforce and supports initiatives that advance women in technology.  The company and its employees actively participate in industry groups such as the Society of Women Engineers and the Association for Women in Science.  Agilent has also partnered with the Center for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology in South Korea to help advance women scientists and engineers.

Agilent executives Darlene Solomon and Helen Stimson were featured speakers at last fall’s “Inspiring Women in STEM” (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) conference.

“Agilent has always been committed to advancing science,” said Solomon, Agilent’s Chief Technology Officer. “So it is a real honor to share with nearly 300 women the exciting career paths and profound benefits that science and technology innovation enable for our world’s future.”

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