The other week, Maria wrote a great history of midwifery, a field of medicine that was traditionally practiced by women into the 1800s. But at the same time that male physicians were insisting that they were the only ones qualified to treat women, some women were insisting that they were qualified to become physicians themselves.
In 1848, Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman admitted to Geneva Medical College in New York – but her admission was based less on her merit and more on, well, the whims of the all-male student body. Apparently the school’s administrators didn’t want to risk rejecting a woman, so rather than make a final decision, they asked the students to decide if Blackwell should be admitted. The students thought that a rival school had admitted Blackwell’s application as a joke, and agreed to admit her.