Gender Discrimination Champions

Elizabeth Blackwell

Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States and the first woman on the UK Medical Register.

Blackwell was born on February 3, 1821. She first became interested in medicine when one of her friends was dying of what may have been uterine cancer. Blackwell’s friend suggested that a female physician would have been able to make her treatment more comfortable. This, along with Blackwell’s desire to be economically independent, inspired her to apply to medical school

In October 1847, Blackwell was accepted by Geneva Medical College. The dean and faculty could not decide whether to admit Blackwell, so they asked the all-male student body to vote on whether she should be accepted. If even one student objected, Blackwell would be denied admittance. Thinking the request was a joke, the students voted unanimously to accept her. She graduated on January 23, 1849, and became the first women to receive a medical degree in the U.S..

Blackwell moved to New York City and opened her own medical practice. In 1853, she opened a small dispensary. Four years later, Blackwell expanded the dispensary into the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children. Women helped to run all aspects of the infirmary. The infirmary also trained nurses. In 1868, Blackwell opened a medical college for women affiliated with the infirmary to train the next generation of female providers.

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai is an education activist and student from Pakistan whose name became known around the world when she was brutally acctacked last year.

Yousafzai was born on July 12, 1997. When she was 11 years old, she began blogging for the BBC, describing her life under the Taliban’s rule and discussing the importance of education for girls. During this time, the Taliban maintained a ban on girls’ education, even going so far as destroying girls’ schools.

Because of her vocal support of education for women and opposition to the Taliban, Yousafzai began to receive death threats. In October 2012, a member of the Taliban walked up to her school bus and shot Yousafzai in the head.

Yousafzai survived the attack and has since undergone multiple surgeries. In her first recorded statement after the attack, she said:

“I want to serve. I want to serve the people. I want every girl, every child to be educated.” She also recorded statements in Urdu and Pashto, two languages spoken in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In the Urdu version, Yousafzai says, “I would be willing to sacrifice myself again.” 

Yousafzai also announced the Malala Fund, created in partnership with Vital Voices. This fund will help girls get out of domestic labor and into school by providing a safe space for girls and an incentive program for families.

Yousafzai has been nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize and is the youngest Nobel Peace Prize nominee in history. She also won Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize.

Discharched last month from her UK hospital, she returned to school last week in Birmingham, England.