International Women's Day has been observed for well over one hundred years - the first was celebrated across the countries of Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland in 1911. Powerful protests, multiple historic firsts, and of course, inspiring women have made their mark on the world ever since.
To mark this global celebration, LetsGetChecked want to honor just some of the women in history who challenged the status quo and truly influenced the medical industry: Elizabeth Blackwell, M. Joycelyn Elders, Marie Curie, Susan La Flesche Picotte, and Gerty Cori.
As the first woman to earn a medical degree in the United States, Elizabeth Blackwell was a passionate advocate for women’s rights and strongly promoted the involvement of women in the medical industry.
Blackwell was born near Bristol, England, in a forward-thinking household - her father was an avid anti-slavery activist and her brother, a well-known woman’s suffrage supporter. According to the National Women’s History Museum, Blackwell faced rejection from several medical schools but was eventually admitted into Geneva College, New York - she went on to graduate first in her class. She then opened the New York Infirmary for Women and Children along with her sister Dr. Emily Blackwell in 1857.
M. Jocelyn Elders
Jocelyn Elders was not only the first woman but the first person in the state of Arkansas to become the first board-certified pediatric endocrinologist. Described by the Times as “one of the leaders, innovators, activists” to define the last century, Elders went on to become the first African American and the second woman to be named U.S. Surgeon General.
In her position as U.S. Surgeon General, Elders pushed boundaries and advocated for better sex education, the availability of birth control, and expanded the availability for testing and screening for HIV and breast cancer.
Known and remembered for her discovery of radium and polonium, as well as her avid contributions to cancer research, Marie Curie was the first, and the only, woman to receive two Nobel Prizes: one in physics in 1903 and another in chemistry in 1911.
Born in Warsaw Poland, Curie studied physics and mathematics in Paris, where she met scientist Pierre Curie. The two married and became avid research workers. Their discoveries led to significant advancements in medicine and even led to the development of x-ray and radiation therapy for treating cancer.
Susan La Flesche Picotte
Susan La Flesche Picotte chose to both challenge and shatter two unjust barriers of her time by becoming the first Native American woman in the United States to earn a medical degree in the 1880s.
La Flesche enrolled in the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania and graduated at the top of her class in 1889 to become the first Native American woman doctor. After receiving her degree, she returned to the Omaha Indian Reservation to care for members of her tribe. Years before her death, she opened a hospital on the reservation - the first-ever of its kind.
Gerty Cori was the first woman in America to receive the Nobel Prize in science for her work in discovering the process of cellular energy storage and release and as a result, transforming the study of biology.
Born in Prague, Gerty was encouraged by her uncle to apply to medical school where she uncovered her love of biochemistry and where she met her soon-to-be husband Carl Cori. The pair worked together, carrying out multiple studies on the actions of hormones and metabolic disorders and proving vital genetic concepts. Their work earned them both the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1947.
LetsGetChecked's wide-range of at-home Women’s Health Tests cater to all women who want to know more about their health. So whether you’re interested in looking into your vitamin levels or have been meaning to check up on your hormones - why not mark this International Women's Day by challenging yourself to take control of your health.