WOMEN IN WHITE COATS
How the First Women Doctors Changed the World of Medicine
by Olivia Campbell
A powerfully illuminating read, for fans of The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks and Hidden Figures.
With the passing of trailblazing women’s rights activist Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, many anxiously look to the future for the fate of women’s healthcare. Ginsburg unequivocally changed women’s healthcare rights, and continued to fight for them through her final days. Just as many of this generation’s women vow to pick up the torch for the “Notorious RBG,” Ginsburg too followed in the revolutionary footsteps of her predecessors. Medical journalist Olivia Campbell sheds a brilliant light on such champions with WOMEN IN WHITE COATS, the little-known true story of three pioneering Victorian women who fought to become the first women doctors, revolutionizing healthcare forever.
With gripping storytelling based on the extensive correspondence and access to archival documents, Campbell expertly unearths a number relatively unsung, yet groundbreaking moments in history:
THE HEROINE WOMEN DESPERATELY NEEDED. Campbell introduces us to Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, who had no intention of studying medicine until her friend, Mary Donaldson, begged her to become a lady doctor. Mary was dying from uterine cancer that went undetected because, like so many Victorian women, she felt uncomfortable being examined by a male doctor.
OUTMANEUVERING THE PATRIARCHY. Medicine was newly regulated in the 1800s, requiring doctors to receive formal training to be allowed to practice. Even though women have worked as healers since ancient times, men in the Victorian age found the idea of a lady doctor to be ludicrous. So much so, that when New York Geneva's medical students were asked in 1847 if Elizabeth Blackwell could attend their lectures, they believed it to be a joke from a rival school and said yes. Their dismissive attitude allowed Elizabeth Blackwell the access to study and the opportunity to become the first woman ever to earn a medical degree.
A COMPLICATED FRIENDSHIP WITH FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE. Campbell reveals details on how Blackwell’s dear friend, the world-famous Crimean War nurse Florence Nightingale, played an instrumental and supportive role early in Backwell’s career. And how Nightingale’s firm belief that women should be content to be nurses eventually drove a wedge in the friendship.
WOMEN IN WHITE COATS follows Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell's exceptional journey into medicine, as she was joined by Dr. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Dr. Sophia Jex-Blake, each going to extraordinary lengths to earn a medical degree. Together, these women founded the first-ever women run hospitals and teaching colleges, providing resources and a path for other women pursuing medicine to follow.
About the Author
Olivia Campbell is a journalist and author specializing in medicine and women; her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Washington Post, and New York Magazine/The Cut, among others. Her debut nonfiction book, Women in White Coats, is due out from HarperCollins/Park Row Books in March 2021.
About Park Row Books
Park Row Books was launched in 2017 and is dedicated to publishing a selective list of voice-driven and thought-provoking books across a variety of genres, from book club fiction and literary suspense to historical novels and narrative nonfiction. Park Row is an exciting and innovative destination for literary writers who want a boutique publishing experience with the support of a powerhouse commercial publisher.
Like the Manhattan street after which it is named, and which was once the home of New York’s many newspapers, Park Row takes immense pride in fostering free expression, inclusive ideas and diverse voices.