Tuesday, January 19, 2021

The Doctors Blackwell: How Two Pioneering Sisters Brought Medicine to Women and Women to Medicine

The Doctors Blackwell is an interesting and well written biography of the Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell, pioneering female physicians in the USA. Due out 19th Jan 2021 from W.W. Norton, it's 352 pages (ebook), and will be available in hardcover and ebook formats. 

As a healthcare professional who works in a teaching hospital, I'm regularly involved in interacting with students in labwork exercises and orientation to labwork and histology coursework. I was interested to see a few years ago that the gender distribution of incoming students has continued to be weighted more and more toward women choosing to pursue medical degrees and today, the balance has shifted to about 80% female and 20% male for the upcoming class. It's because of pioneering women like the Blackwell sisters in STEM careers that young women today have the opportunity to pursue their educational goals. 

At the time the Blackwell sisters were pursuing their educations, being a physician was an outlandish, almost shocking goal for females. Author Janice Nimura does a good job of conjuring the historical context and readers get a real feeling for what a monumental uphill climb they faced and how much strength, stubbornness, and grit they displayed.

The book is arranged roughly chronologically with their early childhood and upbringing through their educations, travels, setbacks and successes. The author has a rather unflinching style, not covering over their rougher edges to make for a more palatable story. They were both complex women and this biography reflects that. 

The author has included a good bibliography (divided into primary and secondary source material), abbreviated chapter notes, and an index. 

Four stars. Recommended for readers who enjoy biographies, history, women's health studies, medicine, gender studies, American history, etc. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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