Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell (National Library of Medicine)

When she graduated from Geneva Medical College in New York on January 23, 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman in the United States to earn a medical degree. She overcame many barriers. No other American school at the time permitted women to study medicine.

Blackwell took inspiration from a sick friend who believed her illness would have been better understood by a female doctor. Determined to promote the role of women in the medical profession, Blackwell graduated at the top of her class, founded the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, the nation’s first woman-run hospital, and launched a medical school for women.

Today, women doctors serve in the highest ranks of the medical profession, caring for whole communities and responding to new health care challenges around the world.

“It is not easy to be a pioneer — but oh, it is fascinating!” — Elizabeth Blackwell

Listen to Elizabeth Blackwell’s story as part of Voice of America’s Learning English series. If you have a story about a woman doctor who has had an important impact on your life, you can share it here.