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The Doctors Blackwell: How Two Pioneering Sisters Brought Medicine to Women and Women to Medicine Hardcover – January 19, 2021

4.2 out of 5 stars 947 ratings

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From the Publisher

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Nimura writes fluidly, and her book is an engaging and meticulously documented guide not only to the sisters’ lives but also to the medical practices of their time. We hear about obsolete medical treatments (intravaginal leeches), student ingenuity (stuffing medical textbooks under clothes to avoid paying taxes) and New York trivia (the Blackwell’s infirmary on Bleecker Street was a former Roosevelt residence). But the greater part of Nimura’s achievement lies in how she brings new life to the story of two extraordinary and idiosyncratic physicians who forever changed the medical profession."
Danielle Ofri, American Scholar

"This nonfiction story of the first hospital staffed entirely by women could not be more timely."
Seija Rankin, Entertainment Weekly

"A riveting dual biography of America’s first female physicians...A compellingly portrayed and vividly realized biography of triumph and trailblazing."
Kirkus (starred review)

"Janice P. Nimura has gifted us with more than a splendid history of the Blackwell sisters. Gripping, vividly written, and moving, it is also a surprisingly timely history of the misogynist, limited, still evolving Anglo-American medical profession."
Blanche Wiesen Cook, author of Eleanor Roosevelt: Volumes 1–3

"Nimura shocks and enthralls with her blunt, vivid storytelling. She draws on the writings of Elizabeth and Emily in an intimate way that makes it feel like she knew the sisters personally. Alongside glaring descriptions of culturally ingrained sexism and discrimination, the biography also touches on how our standards of medicine have changed over the decades, showing how even the most scientific of professions are subject to major culture shifts."
Jennifer Walter, Discover Magazine

"Ms. Nimura’s portrait of the Blackwells’ America blazes with hallucinatory energy. It’s a rough-hewn, gaudy, carnival-barking America, with only the thinnest veneer of gentility overlaying cruelty and a simmering violence. It’s an America yearning for relief from disease, besotted with séances and spiritualism, quack cures and phrenology; a deeply divided America, with bloody fissures between rich and poor, North and South, city and countryside."
Donna Rifkind, Wall Street Journal

"
The Doctors Blackwell should be required reading in all medical schools, indeed for anyone who has ever consulted a doctor. This rousing story of two brilliant and determined nineteenth-century sisters is also a history of American medicine―how it was practiced and by whom. That the Blackwells arrived in the United States during a cholera epidemic and made it their mission to provide medical care to the underserved, while also promoting the twin causes of women’s rights and abolition, brings this narrative hurtling into the twenty-first century, demanding our attention today."
Megan Marshall, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life

"A captivating biography...In recounting the lives of two ambitious figures who opened doors for many who came after them, Nimura casts a thoughtful and revelatory new light onto women’s and medical history."
Publisher's Weekly (starred review)

"All doctors and all patients owe a debt to these eccentric, determined, brilliant characters, Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell, who found their way across the strange and bloody landscape of nineteenth-century medicine and transformed it forever, all brilliantly conjured in Janice P. Nimura’s wonderful book."
Perri Klass, author of A Good Time to Be Born

"Even if you know who Elizabeth Blackwell is ― the first woman to receive an MD in the United States ― you may not know her sister Emily’s name. Nimura (
Daughters of the Samurai) examines Emily Blackwell’s brilliance, and how the sisters’ achievements and (at times contentious) partnership changed the landscape of American medicine for good."
Bethanne Patrick, Washington Post

"The Blackwell sisters took on the medical establishment and won. They are heroines, not just of their time, but for every age. Their incredible story has been crying out to be told, and in Janice P. Nimura they have the ideal biographer. The Blackwells live and triumph again."
Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire

"With the fiercely intelligent, prickly sisters at the center, Nimura’s engrossing and enlightening group biography is highly recommended."
Sara Jorgensen, Booklist (starred review)

"Nimura has done extensive research on her subjects, using archives, letters, contemporary writings, and secondary materials to bring their stories to life... This book is an excellent read for those interested in the history of medicine and those who enjoy a well-written biography."
Library Journal (starred review)

About the Author

Janice P. Nimura is the winner of a 2017 Public Scholar award from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the author of the New York Times bestselling The Doctors Blackwell and Daughters of the Samurai, a New York Times Notable Book. She lives in New York City.
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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (January 19, 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 336 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0393635546
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0393635546
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.3 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.4 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.2 out of 5 stars 947 ratings

About the author

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Janice P. Nimura received a Public Scholar Award from the National Endowment for the Humanities in support of her work on The Doctors Blackwell, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2022. Her previous book, "Daughters of the Samurai: A Journey from East to West and Back," was a New York Times Notable book in 2015. Her essays and book reviews have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, Salon, and LitHub, among other publications.

“The one thing I know I’ll never be is a historian,” she told her college guidance counselor in 1988. She thought she wanted to be a doctor, but life intervened: she majored in English at Yale, worked in publishing, moved to Japan with her Tokyo-born husband, and completed an M.A. in East Asian studies at Columbia upon their return to her native New York. She grew into an understanding that history is made of stories and fell in love with archival treasure-hunting, especially when it led to the forgotten lives of border-crossing nineteenth-century women. Her first book grew out of her personal interest in the earliest encounters between Japan and the United States. In her latest project she circles back to her first interest in medicine, in the context of her work in women’s history.

Customer reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5
947 global ratings

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Dreamteam
3.0 out of 5 stars Wie ein Lebenslauf ohne persönliche Einblicke
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Anne R.
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Reviewed in Canada 🇨🇦 on May 15, 2021