This Week's Story

Elizabeth,"For a woman to become a doctor is unfeminine and impossible!"

This Week’s Story relives American history and the Bible through brief inspiring stories presented on mp3 audio recordings and text for reading.

You cannot be a doctor! part one

“Elizabeth, you don’t like teaching school. You say, ‘It’s monotonous trying to beat knowledge into heads.’ That’s a sad way to think and teach. Teaching is a proud profession. What are you going to do?”

“Mother, I’ve decided to become a doctor. It will give my life purpose, even though I don’t like being around sick people.”

“How unrealistic you are! Nobody wants a woman doctor. You will look at things no woman should see. Do you want to be a woman in a man’s world? No man wants you there.”

“I don’t agree with you. Papa would have considered my plan.”

“Elizabeth, we lived in England until you were eleven and I never heard of a female doctor there. Now we live in the United States and I have never heard of one here.”

“I don’t think that is a reason why I cannot become a doctor.”

“As usual, you are stubborn. I wish when we lived in England that you could have gone to an English school. Since your father was a

religious Dissenter, the government would not let our children go to school.”

“Mother, I loved the education I received at home. I’m grateful that Papa believed all my sisters, brothers, and me should be educated and our minds should be stimulated. Our tutors were excellent. Most of the young women I know have studied some music, a bit of sketching, and how to care for a home. I studied languages, mathematics, geography, and even metaphysics. I listened as Papa and his friends talked about abolishing slavery in England and the United States. They were concerned that women have more rights. They believed conditions in prisons and hospitals needed to be improved. Papa said that he fit me for life.”

Elizabeth began writing letters to doctors. They advised her, “For a woman to become a doctor is unfeminine and impossible! No American medical school will accept you.”

She took a position to be a music teacher in North Carolina, far from home. She could save money and begin private medical studies with the principal who was a former doctor. Her family encouraged her.

Two brothers drove her in a horse-drawn carriage to her new home. It was June 16, 1845 and Elizabeth was 24. She felt alone and frightened. Could she become a doctor? She prayed, “Oh God, help me, support me!” She felt a presence that removed her doubt.

Two years later she had $3000.00, enough to begin medical school. Where would she go?

One doctor suggested, “Perhaps, you could attend school in Paris, France; but to be safe you would need to disguise yourself as a young man.”

Elizabeth replied, “I will not disguise myself. If I can graduate from medical college and become a woman doctor, maybe it will become easier for women to become doctors and help women.”

Elizabeth applied to several medical colleges and was rejected. Then October 20, 1847 she received a most peculiar acceptance letter from Geneva Medical College in New York. The faculty and dean could not accept her until they had submitted her application to all the students, all men. They voted unanimously to invite her to attend. The next month she, Elizabeth Blackwell, was a student at the Geneva Medical College.

You are invited to soon hear the second installment of ‘You cannot be a doctor!”

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