The first women to earn a degree in their field

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Six woman over come challenges
Posted Monday, March 26, 2018 - 6:30pm

Elizabeth Blackwell:

1821-1910

Blackwell was the first woman in to achieve a medical degree. In 1847 Blackwell was accepted as a medical student to Hobart college, though due to that fact that she was a woman, 150 male students had to vote on her acceptance. If even one of them voted no she would not be accepted. Lucky for her, all the male students voted yes for her to attend school with them.

Although Blackwell started her practice with a low number of patients she ended with many. When the Civil War broke out, Blackwell and her sisters helped with the nursing efforts. Men would not work with her on her efforts to educate nurses, so she started her own to organization: The Woman’s Central Relief Association.

Blackwell made great strides for women’s rights. She proved to many that women make a huge impact in the medical field.


Ellen Swallow Richards

1842-1911

Richards was the first woman to earn a degree in chemistry. Richards was also the first woman admitted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She graduated 1873, and was then hired as the first female instructor. In 1884, she worked as an instructor for the Laboratory of Sanitary Chemistry at the Lawrence Experiment Station until her death.

Richards was a feminist who believed women’s work is a vital part of the economy. She and Marion Talbot became the founding mothers of the American Association of University of Women.

She spent her adult life working for women and made an incredible impact on women with higher education degrees.


Mary Whiton Calkin

1863-1930

Calkin was the first woman to complete a degree in psychology in the United States. All of her professors at Harvard recommended her, but because of her sex and the belief that men and women should be educated separately , she did not obtain her degree. Calkins went to Wellesley University and taught as a associate psychology and philosophy professor after “finishing” her degree at Harvard. From her writings scholars have said she did not hold resentment towards those who did not support her. Calkins was suffragist, was the first woman president for the American Psychological Association and American Philosophical Association.


Juliana Morrell

1594-1653

Morrell was the first woman to earn a law degree. Morrell received training as a Spanish Dominican nun at a very young age because of the death of her mother. At age 12, she defended her thesis on ethics and dialects in public. It was then that her father decided he wanted her to pursue a law doctorate. She was the first woman to earn any type of university degree, having earned her law doctorate in 1608.


Elena Cornaro Piscopia

1646-1684

Piscopia the first woman to earn a philosophy degree. Piscopia was an Italian philosopher of noble descent. In 1678, she became the first women in the world to receive a PH.D. She had planned on getting a degree in theology , but the Bishop of Padua would not let her because she was a woman. She instead achieved a PH.D. in philosophy. University authorities, professors, students, senators and many from universities in Bologna, Perugia and Rome were invited to Piscopia’s graduation. The amount of power that showed up proves how important her earning a PH.D was to the world.

After graduation she became a mathematics instructor at the University of Padua. During the last seven years of her life, she focused on her studies and charity.


Mary L. Page

1849-1921

Page was the first woman to earn a degree in architecture. Page graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. After graduating with a B.S. in architecture, she became a secretary for The Capital City Abstract & Title Insurance Company. She is credited with having designed the Samual & Ira Ward House, Olympia Washington in 1889. Page then became a school teacher in Washington state and taught girls who were most likely influenced to gain higher education because of her.

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