Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell

Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to receive a medical degree in the U.S., and formed the U.S. Sanitary Commission during the Civil War.


A number of local ladies' aid societies came into being in the North soon after the war began. The mission of these groups was to improve the health and living conditions of Federal soldiers, whose camps were notoriously unsanitary.

The fear of epidemics, which had occurred during the Crimean War and other recent conflicts, was a major concern. Feeling was strong, declared one aid worker, that “a wise, thorough and persistent effort should be made, guided by the Crimean experience, to forestall the insidious march of these diseases, which, if unchecked, would inevitably overwhelm our army and with it, leave our country in ruin.”

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