National Museum of Health and Medicine Celebrates Women's History Month with One-Act Play About First American Female Doctor

Washington, D.C. – March 4, 2010: In celebration of Women's History Month, the National Museum of Health and Medicine will present the one-act play "A Lady Alone" Elizabeth Blackwell, MD: First American Woman Doctor on Saturday, March 27, 2010 at 1:00 p.m. NMHM is open to the public and located on the campus of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Actress Linda Gray Kelley portrays Blackwell and more than a dozen other characters in the one-woman show written by Harvard University playwright N. Lynn Eckhert, M.D. The hour-long play tells the story of Blackwell who, after being rejected from the nation's leading medical schools at the time, was accepted into New York's Geneva Medical School in 1847. The faculty, assuming that the all-male student body would never agree to a woman joining their ranks, allowed them to vote on her admission. As a joke, they voted "yes," and she was accepted despite the reluctance of the majority of students and faculty.

Two years later, Blackwell became the first woman to receive a degree from an American medical school. She worked in clinics in London and Paris for two years, and studied midwifery at La Maternité where she contracted "purulent ophthalmia," a type of eye infection, from a young patient. After Blackwell lost sight in one eye, she returned to New York City in 1851, giving up her dream of becoming the first female surgeon.

Despite the challenges she faced, Blackwell, along with her physician sister Emily and Dr. Maria Zakrzewske, established the New York Infirmary for Women and Children in 1857. The infirmary sponsored a medical school for women, which later became incorporated into Cornell University's medical school. Over a century later, the New York Infirmary continues to provide medical services to women.

Eckhert said her special interest in the pioneering efforts of Elizabeth Blackwell was inspired by her own experiences in medicine and by the graduation of her son from Blackwell's alma mater, which is now known as Hobart and William Smith Colleges. The play is a production of Theatre Rising Unlimited.

The performance is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. Parking is available. Advance reservations are not required. NOTE: Adults must present government-issued photo identification to gain entry to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. For questions, visit the Museum's Web site or call the Public Programs office at (202) 782-2673.

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