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The Excellent Doctor Blackwell: The Life of the First Woman Physician

When British-born Elizabeth Blackwell earned her medical degree in America in 1849 there was an international outcry. Few at the time would have disagreed with the actress Fanny Kemble’s remark – “What, trust a woman doctor – never!”

Yet by the time Dr Blackwell died in 1910 there were hundreds of women practising medicine on both sides of the Atlantic, thanks in no small part to her courage and determination.

This is a remarkable story, and one by no means confined to medicine. It embraces slavery, the women’s rights movement, the American Civil War and Elizabeth’s personal tragedy (she lost an eye in Paris) - as well as a fascinating cast of characters from Abraham Lincoln to Florence Nightingale.

Using a treasure trove of primary sources, the book reveals how Elizabeth Blackwell’s pioneering efforts helped to fundamentally change the status of women in the West.


‘Julia Boyd resists the temptation to turn Blackwell into one of those old-fashioned feminist icons of the 1970s... the result is thorough and, above all, thoughtful.’

The Guardian

‘One can only hope that this excellent biography of an excellent doctor will help garner Blackwell the renown she has always deserved.’

New England Journal of Medicine

‘Julia Boyd's superb biography reveals B as a complex, tenacious and often frustrating character whose extraordinary single-mindedness changed our world.’

Victorian Geek

Buy Julia Boyd