Annivesary Post: Elizabeth Blackwell

Elizabeth BlackwellOn this day in 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell became the first female doctor in American history. Of course, that was at the time when being a doctor was mostly about being strong enough to saw people’s limbs off. Still, that really wasn’t that long ago, and it is hard not to say, “You’ve come a long way, baby!” Yes, I understand that the diminutive is sexist in this context. I bring it up only because it was the slogan for Virginia Slims cigarettes. Elizabeth Blackwell was born in 1821. Had she been born in 1921, she almost certainly would have been a smoker, and thus not have lived to be 89 years old.

Of course, Elizabeth Blackwell’s efforts at being a doctor were not terribly successful for exactly the reasons you would expect. And she is probably more important today as a civil rights pioneer than as a doctor. She was very big in pushing for the education of women. And not surprisingly, she was a major abolitionist. She and her sisters (her sister Emily was the third woman to get a medical degree in the US) helped to start a nursing program during the Civil War — something that the male doctors were none too happy about. But that’s only because they were men and men are, in general, awful.

11 thoughts on “Annivesary Post: Elizabeth Blackwell

    • Yeah, modern men would never act like that!

      But to be fair, I suspect most of those doctors really did believe that women were unfit to do the job. Bigotry is an amazing thing.

      • True-and then when the women not only showed they could do the job, they did a better job then the men? OUTRAGE!

        Which is kind of weird actually since historically women were the ones who did the birth to death care for their families.

        • It wasn’t the function; it was the getting paid and getting social prestige that mattered — that still matters.

          • True-the view was and is that it is okay for women to have to do the disgusting work but not like they should get anything like decent pay or recognition for it.

            • There’s something almost axiomatic about it. It really just is that men have had the power for a long time. People don’t want to give up power. No deeper than that.

              Some recent research on gender differences in rats have made me feel really bad about men. A good percentage of us are good — but it isn’t even half. Based upon rats. And why not?

  1. You huge sexist.

    Actually, I got a live (not from the Internet) comment recently which floored me. I asked why someone put up with my shit. And I was told, “because you don’t hate women.”

    Huh? I thought not hating 50% of the species was, like, the default. I hate everybody. I hate everything. I’m a born crank, with nothing but hate in my veins. Music the kids like? I hate it! Stuff on TV? I hate it! I hate J.J. Abrams movies, I hate kittens and puppies, I hate all things that are cute and easily lovable.

    Why hate women? Women are complex and interesting. But apparently many men hate them.

    I should probably add, I don’t hate men, either. But most of them are very boring. “I’m ruff ‘n’ tough” zzzzz. Machismo is the least interesting aspect of men.

    What interests me most about women and men are the gender roles they feel pressured to live up to. Which strike me as almost arbitrary. I find it fascinating when men and women step out of their assigned parts. To put it blatantly, I like women who are hard as nails and men who are gifted caregivers. That’s such BS, though. Any of us can be both. (Except me. I am definitely not ruff ‘n’ tough.)

    • It is not so much hatred as it is general despising. When someone is called a misogynist and protests “But I love my mother/sister/girlfriend” the person is not really being called a women hater but someone who doesn’t like women as a whole and thinks poorly of them.

      • My suspicion is that they really hate other men. They feel demeaned by other men. They’re not ruff ‘n’ tuff enough. So, rather than question the mucho macho values they’ve internalized, they hate on women. It’s lunacy.

        Some guys can beat you up. It completely sucks when this happens. It hurts. It’s also not the end of the world. And it won’t happen often. I’m 43, and I haven’t been beat up since junior high. I’ve had fights since then, purely of the mutual-shoving “Fuck you”, “no fuck you, you fuckface” variety.

        (This is why I enjoy baseball fights. There’s lots of shoving, and nobody gets hurt. Oomph. Grr. Testicles! We’re manly men!)

        • Which makes it worse-since it is hating a group of people who had nothing to do with the feelings of inadequacy. Of course it is often the case that men blame women for something women have no control over-like a priest getting angry over a woman being pretty.

          As for the fighting-I have an English friend who used to be a marine and he likes to get into fights. I never understood it.

    • In my life, I’ve largely gotten away with a caustic wit because people think (rightly) that I am good natured. There are people who make jokes to hurt other people. There are people who make jokes to bind them together. I suspect that is more or less what you are hearing. It really isn’t about what you say or how you say it, but about who you have shown yourself to be.

      Now you don’t really hate kittens and puppies do you?

      I think there is a genetic part to gender roles. My general feeling is that roughly 70% of men feel fine in traditional male gender roles. Now these are traditional roles, not necessarily the football loving nonsense that is now seen as “male.” I think about it with the hunters and gatherers. I suspect there were about 30% men doing the gathering and 30% women doing the hunting. I’d tend to be with the gatherers. But more likely, they would all find it was best to give me a spot in cave and spend all my time making arrows. The hunters and gatherers would both complain, “He keeps falling down!” Just keep me safe and doing something useful.

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