Esteemed thinker: first woman doctor-Elizabeth Blackwell

Paris. Edith Cavell Memorial Hospital and Training School for Nurses in Paris. Dr. Girard Mangin, Directress of Hospital, in foreground, is the only woman doctor in French army

Today’s post is a tribute to Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910), the first woman in America to receive a medical degree and a champion for woman to enter the medical profession.

Born near Bristol, England on February 3, 1821, Blackwell was the third of nine children of Hannah Lane and Samuel Blackwell, a sugar refiner, Quaker, and anti-slavery activist.

She faced discrimination and obstacles in college: professors forced her to sit separately at lectures and often excluded her from labs; local townspeople shunned her as a “bad” woman for defying her gender role. She eventually earned the respect of professors and classmates, graduating first in her class in 1849. 

It Happened Here: Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell - NewYork-Presbyterian

In recognition to her dedication and courage, as well as a thank you to all health care workers of all genders; I wish to share my poem.

Ode to Elizabeth Blackwell

Who are you, simple woman?
You- A child of Bristol with a sweet voice like gentle rain
You that pranced and played with nine siblings
Scattering up the ashes of your burned home
As carefree as dust on the bottom of your soles

You -who knew your form was as worthy as a male
Found your spirit like a caged bird set free
As tireless as an old seaman rolling over perilous surf
Soaking up knowledge like a falling rain upon parched soil
True conqueror were you young Bess

You -A fair bonneted woman challenged the system
Crossing into the great males’ territory
Like the velvet bloom on a thorny cactus
You blossomed and flourished, invading the watch fires
Oh woman warrior, you freed the way for your sisters.

First image: Portrait of Elizabeth Blackwell

Poem by NL Avery USA

Second image: Edith Cavell Memorial Hospital and Training School for Nurses in Paris. Dr. Girard Mangin, Directress of Hospital, in foreground, is the only woman doctor in French army Paris

Lewis Carroll and the letter

mail Manners are eagerly received but not always eagerly executed and for some it is merely the fact that our 21st century ideals often collide with those of the 20th century and the ages following behind. For one’s lack of perceived manners, or shall we dare say perceived rudeness, is often just an oversight, still a faux pas to some but not in the posture of present day decorum and modern thinking. For example; upon accepting a gift proper etiquette would require a hand-written note back to the giver letting he or she know that we are appreciative of their thoughtfulness. However, this practice has now been exchanged with an email, a call on the phone, or even a text. Thus many would attest to the assumption that good upbringing does seem to mandate a written response which has been transported and delivered by the mail carrier, while others still would disagree; finding the more informal thank you equally fitting.

In consequence to the formers’ position, the art of letter writing has since been dismissed like the home phone line that is offered a conciliatory smile and hence has been sentenced to the back of the closet; reinstated by a smarter cell that travels with us wherever we journey. It has become our side kick, riding shot-gun in our pocket or hand-bag, a trusted device that allows us to do away with pen and pencil, paper and pads; freeing us up from those mundane tasks such as…letter writing. However, there still is something very nice about receiving a letter, no matter how technologically sophisticated one has become. There is still something very lovely about pulling open the letter box, and as you sift through your bills and solicitations an envelope peers out with no other intention than to give you news, wanting nothing more than your attention. There is something quite special about knowing that someone picked out the stationary, sat down with their solitude to compose a personal thought; that they mulled over what to say, reread their sentences transcribed in their own words, and sailed their message along the paper freely as one would skip across a lake on a sunny afternoon. Or, just perhaps each word they wished to convey was produced from strained ponderings and like tapping syrup from a maple tree, the words came out slowly with long moments of rephrasing.

Yet, whatever method had evolved to get the message across, it was eventually folded into an envelope and the deliberate act of placing perhaps a very colorful stamp in the corner, the same spot that Benjamin Franklin would have blotted centuries ago, was acted upon; sealed and then slipped into a post box for transport, trusting its delivery to our ever-ready postal service…and considering it may have traveled by way of rugged terrain or choppy seas…it is still quite reasonable in price.

Yes, the letter! This blogger must confess that she still writes them and dearly enjoys the reciprocation of their receipt. The quiet stroll to the post box..up the driveway… mundane to some yet the probability that by chance there may be a letter in the box is certainly worth the trek up and back.

lewis carroll 2 In today’s post I present to you again the esteemed thinker: Lewis Carroll. His wit and facility at word play, logic, and fantasy are noted by most that enjoy his writing. He has left his mark in history through his rare and diversified literary gifts whereby he possessed a talent for writing prose as well as verse, and though he is often exclusively remembered for his “Alice in Wonderland” stories, his diaries and letters validate a multi-faceted author.

I now suggest a brief time-out from your hectic day to read a portion from his work titled, “Eight or Nine Words about Letter Writing” (1890). Here is the popular Lewis Carroll on “How to end a letter”.

“ If doubtful whether to end with ‘yours faithfully’, or ‘yours truly’, or ‘yours most truly’, &c. (there are at least a dozen varieties, before you reach ‘yours affectionately’), refer to your correspondent’s last letter, and make your winding-up at least as friendly as his; in fact, even if a shade more friendly, it will do no harm!

A Postscript is a very useful invention: but it is not meant (as so many ladies suppose) to contain the real gist of the letter: it serves rather to throw into the shade any little matter we do not wish to make a fuss about. For example, your friend had promised to execute a commission for you in town, but forgot it, thereby putting you to great inconvenience: and he now writes to apologize for his negligence. It would be cruel, and needlessly crushing, to make it the main subject of your reply. How much more gracefully it comes in thus! “P.S. Don’t distress yourself any more about having omitted that little matter in town. I won’t deny that it did put my plans out a little, at the time: but it’s all right now. I often forget things, myself: and ‘those who live in glass-houses, mustn’t throw stones’, you know!”

When you take your letters to the Post, carry them in your hand. If you put them in your pocket you will take a long country-walk (I speak from experience), passing the Post-Office twice, going and returning, and, when you get home, will find them still in your pocket.”