Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Patricia Clapp wrote Dr. Elizabeth: The Story of the First Woman Doctor, about the first woman to receive the M.D. degree, using the first person and the journal form to give the impression that Elizabeth Blackwell herself is writing. Excerpts from letters to and by Blackwell and re-creations of conversations enhance this impression. In twenty chapters, Clapp encompasses the middle decades of the nineteenth century United States, the key years in Blackwell’s struggle to open the medical profession to women doctors. A brief epilogue recounts Blackwell’s later years, during which she no longer lived in the United States. There is also a brief bibliography that provides a sampling of both Blackwell’s writings and selected studies on her.

Dr. Elizabeth begins in 1845, when the twenty-four-year-old Blackwell was wondering about becoming a doctor; at the time, it was an absurd idea for a woman. There was a wall of prejudice against women entering any profession other than teaching school. During a visit to a dying woman, Blackwell expressed dissatisfaction over the lack of purpose in her life. The woman responded by suggesting that she study medicine, because many women like herself were offended by male doctors examining and probing their bodies.

From this opening chapter, Dr. Elizabeth moves through the next twenty-four years of Blackwell’s life, until the English-born woman returned permanently to England....

(The entire section is 542 words.)