Women in the STEM Fields

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In early American history, society believed that women did not have a place in education and high-level learning. They were told not to bother their brains with such advanced thinking. Middle and upper class women learned to read and write, but their education ended there. A woman’s place was said to be in the home, cooking, sewing, and taking care of the children. In the case of upper class women, their “to-do” list was cut even shorter with the servants present to do the work.

However, women desired a higher education. Elizabeth Blackwell is a prime example of women’s fight for a medical degree, one of the first STEM environments available to women. In order to kick-start her education she wrote to all of the doctors that she knew, requesting advice and help. However, most of the doctors replied that they thought it impossible, that a woman would not be able to endure the rigors of a medical education, and that they feared the competition that women doctors would bring. Elizabeth persisted, finally making her way to Philadelphia, a city famous for its study in medicine, to stay with Dr. Elder, one of the few supporters of her education. Once here she continued writing letters and actually found many friends who agreed to support her cause, but unfortunately universities were not included in this list of friends. Elizabeth then pursued an education at the University of Geneva in New York where the Medical Faculty and students agreed to accept her. While at first the university cared about the press coverage that Elizabeth’s spot would bring, she eventually established her rightful place as a student there. Although she encountered some resentment among the wives of doctors and other people living in the small town, Elizabeth ...

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