Elizabeth Blackwell, MDToday while I was waiting for an elevator in downtown Seattle, a man whisked in front of me and another women to get in the elevator.  The woman had on a fancy coat and red, powdery lipstick. She stopped me as I was getting in and said, “Oh, it’s going down.” I stopped and waited and thanked her for alerting me to getting on the wrong elevator. I liked her. It didn’t really faze me that the man had pushed ahead of us a bit, but he had. The woman looked over at me and said, “what a man, can’t even wait for a woman to get on.”

I said, “well, chivalry really is dead.”  As if to state the obvious but also assert the okay-ness I had with it all. Then I said (maybe over-stepping my boundary with this stranger), “funny thing is, yesterday was January 11th and that marked the day that the first woman in the United States was awarded her MD.  And that was over 150 years ago.  So, if I lose the chivalry over those years and gain the opportunity to practice medicine as easily as I do, it seems a pretty good trade off.”

The woman just kind of looked at me, smiled, almost laughed a bit, and then stepped forward as the elevator re-opened. When we got in and headed up she said, “well, at least he’s not on our elevator.” That was the end of my talking. I don’t know that she saw it like I did, but it certainly left me feeling the fortune of finding myself alive in 2010, having seen patients in clinic all morning.  Can you hear the Helen Reddy song, “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar ” in the background?  This song was the theme music for my 5th grade synchronized swimming routine. Yes, for real.

A little history for you today while you listen to Helen Reddy:

Elizabeth Blackwell, MD was the first woman in the US to receive an MD on January 11th, 1849. Some 161 years ago. She worked hard to get her education and wasn’t allowed to practice medicine in the US after she had completed her training. A pioneer, she paved the way for educating all-comers in medical schools.

 Opportunity has come a long way. Don’t you wonder what Dr Elizabeth Blackwell would make of women now outnumbering men in medical school?

Tell all those girls out there it’s ok to wait a little longer, or offer to go second, on the elevator.  After we wait, we can go fly a plane, run a restaurant or provide someone with a live-saving appendectomy.