(Lars) #1

When Elizabeth’s mother heard of Blockley’s conditions,
she was horrified. “Do not fear for me,” Elizabeth wrote to
her. “I live simply, do my duty, and trust in God.” The situ-
ation at Blockley made Elizabeth dream of having a hospital
where kind, well-trained nurses would guide women back to
health in pleasant surroundings.
Elizabeth graduated at the top of her class in 1849, the
first woman ever to earn a medical degree.
She went to Paris to gain experience, but no hospital there
would accept a woman as an intern. Elizabeth had to settle
for being a nursing apprentice in La Maternité, a large wom-
en’s hospital. She was determined to make the most of the
experience. To her sister Anna she wrote, “I shall give baths
and make beds and empty slops, and I’ll like it all, for I
shall be learning.”
The plight of the poor women particularly touched
Elizabeth. She watched in angry silence as a male doc-
tor operated on a woman with no concern for her pain
and embarrassment and even less concern for cleanliness.