Saturday, August 06, 2005

Hold on to your dream whatever the cynics say

I am indebted again to for another wonderful story.

When Laughter Isn't the Best Medicine
A Doctor's Remedy for Ridicule
Copyright Ó 2005 by Cynthia Kersey

In 1847, a small blonde woman named Elizabeth Blackwell made a very gutsy move. She applied for admission to a medical college in Geneva, New York. It wasn't the first time she'd applied to medical school, but all the others -- dozens of them -- had rejected her.

In Geneva, the dean was nervous about taking responsibility for this unprecedented request, so he passed the application on to a vote of the school. When the male students read it, they exploded in laughter. It was so obvious to them that this was a practical joke being played by a rival college. "Let's humor them," they decided. Amid a chorus of cheers, jeers, and catcalls, they voted Blackwell in, but the joke was on them. Students and townspeople were horrified when they discovered Elizabeth Blackwell was real. Initially, she was denied access to classroom medical demonstrations as they were deemed "inappropriate" for a woman.

Two years later, she graduated first in her class and became the first woman to graduate from an American medical school. It was publicized all across the country. Publicity however, is not the same as acceptance.

Blackwell found the only place she could continue her studies was in the more liberal minded city of Paris, and even there, she was accepted only as a midwife. While working with children, she contracted an eye disease that left her blind. Her dream had been to be a surgeon, but in the endless storehouse of dreams in the world, hers became just another one. Blackwell would become a physician instead and moved back to the States.

For seven years in New York, Blackwell struggled to find a position but every hospital turned her away. Once again she formed a new plan; she would establish a private practice. The years that followed were lonely ones, with few friends and little support. Her medical colleagues ignored her and she was barred from the city's hospitals and dispensaries. No one would rent her office space, and her mailbox was filled with hurtful, abusive letters. People called her immoral and shameless and compared her to a prostitute.

Finally she opened a small office in the ghetto. No one came. To attract clients, she gave lectures to girls on physical education in the basement of a church. The room was always packed, but her office remained empty. Undeterred, she offered her services for free, but still no one came. Finally, a woman collapsed ill outside her door. Although many male doctors had been unable to help the woman, Blackwell treated her successfully. Now at last, the people came.

Soon Blackwell's practice was thriving, but she didn't stop there. She founded the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, and later, a Women's Medical College. Applications poured into the college -- applications from people with names like "Marie" and "Lucy" and "Ann."

This time, no one laughed.

"A high purpose lives against every species of opposition."
-Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell


Omara said...

Hi Trevor and welcome back to the blogging world!

It has been a nice surprise to find this beautiful post, to me it is
a great example of the strenght that women have and how unstoppable it can become when it goes together with high purposes and perseverance.

It just may be that all the difficulties that women have had along history -prejudices, margination, lack of freedom, abuses, etc - has helped us become much better and resilient individuals. I am not thanking history for it, just figuring out how things fit together.

I will check out that website to see what other inspirational things are in there, thanks BTW :-)

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Omara

It is good to be back after a wonderful holiday - Annie and I had a lovely time.

I too found this a very powerful story .

It illustrates how one must never give up in the face of criticism and awful discrimination - whether we are male or female.

I love the story and throughout history many great people often were in a minority when they started down their road of their ultimate legendary fame.

Sir Winston Churchill once said 'Never, never, never quit' - sound advice methinks.

Rocky said...

The unstoppable website and book that Cynthia Kersey has written is full inspiring accomplishments and stories. i think it would be neat if trevor and Cynthia could communicate via the web. Both have similar interest inspiring people to accomplish their very best. both have books well worth reading,Simplicity is the Key" and "Unstoppable". Cynthia has a new book out "Unstoppable Women" I have not read that yet but plan to. She writes most of her stuff on women, but I assert that the principles are sound for all people.

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks Rocky - hope you are well my friend - Annie and I had a fabulous holiday in Channel Islands - not Ice Cream sandwiches but plenty of laughs :-)

I would be delighted to do something jointly with Cynthia - maybe you can suggest it to her.

Omara said...

Dear Trevor, I am glad you had such a great time; sounded very fun the accident in the bus,sorry, hope you are alright!

This unstoppable site looks quite cool!and yes, I agree with Rocky that Trevor and this lady look alike somehow. Trevor, please, if you are about to start any other unstoppable thing,please, let it us know :-)

BTW, how was the quote I read at TP site?: "If the idea is really good no one will believe on it" or something along, wasn't it?

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Omara

I will work with anyone to make things more simple. It would be good to do somethin jointly with 'Unstoppable' - lets see what happens.

Help me a little more with the quote you referred to on Tom Peters site. I cannot recall at the moment which quote you mean.

As regrads the fall on the bus the only thing that was hurt was my pride :-)

Omara said...

I was waiting to see if the quote was shown again at but it hasn't recently, sorry. If I spot it there or I can find it in one of my TP's books I will let you know (translated from Spanish indeed :-)