The Doctors Blackwell tells the story of the Western worlds first few female physicians, notably the sisters Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell. The thoroughly researched tale documents the trials and tribulations of women in the 19th century, and provides a nuanced perspective on the origins of our healthcare system.
I had to read this book for a school competition about medical professionals, and it certainly is a story. I don't feel like I can really judge this book too harshly, since I was required to read it and nonfiction isn't my forte, but I will do my level best. The best part of this book is that it's a comedy. The sisters, especially Elizabeth, have such distinct and strong personalities that they almost seem like caricatures. They're both overtly haughty and condescending in ways that could be considered annoying but I considered to be excellent comedic characterization. There are several entries in this book where Elizabeth rails about how dumb all other women are and how she's a paragon that will lead them to enlightenment. That stuff is hilarious. The sexism in the book also starts being funny after a point. While the frustration of the repeated rejections by men comes through very strongly, the way almost every man in this book is terrified of a women doctor is absolutely insane. There's a bit where a man almost has a conniption working with Elizabeth, who has to coach him to treat her as a patient so he doesn't lose his mind sharing a job with a women. Comedic gold. Besides this, the book was also a brilliant insight to the developments in medicine in the 19th century and the changing forces of the time.
My main issue with this book was the seeming lack of authorial voice. I get that this is nonfiction and it doesn't really matter, but about half the book was quoted directly from letters, and with the hilarity of the subject matter I would've enjoyed having a narrator that indulged in the content the same way I did. The dryness of these quotes definitely drove down my enjoyment of the book. All in all, this was a very strong story about the Blackwell sisters, and I'd recommend it to anyone interested in medicine or flawed historical figures!
Reviewer Grade: 12