NY Infirmary for Women and Children founder honored with plaque

Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, speaks at the plaque unveiling. (Photo by Harry Bubbins)

On Monday, Elizabeth Blackwell, who founded the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, the first hospital to be run by and for women, was commemorated with the unveiling of a historic plaque at 58 Bleecker Street. Blackwell was also the first woman doctor in America.

The Greenwich Village address was chosen because it was the original site of the infirmary, which was later moved to East 15th Street in Stuyvesant Square. The infirmary in more recent years was incorporated into New York-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital. The infirmary had originally operated out of a house that’s still standing, though it was originally numbered 64 Bleecker Street.

Built in 1822-1823, the Federal style house was erected for James Roosevelt, the great-grandfather of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who lived there until his death just ten years before Blackwell embarked on her groundbreaking effort. Blackwell’s hospital opened on May 12, 1857, the 37th birthday of Florence Nightingale, whom Blackwell had befriended earlier in her career. The hospital was open seven days a week and provided medical care for needy women and children free of charge.

Monday’s plaque unveiling, which took place almost 161 years to the day after the infirmary opened, was organized by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

Elizabeth Blackwell

“Blackwell not only blazed trails and broke down barriers for women, but she established medical practices and protocols which are used to this day, and which have improved or saved the lives of countless people,” said Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

“We all owe her a great debt of gratitude, and now whenever one passes the corner of Bleecker and Crosby Streets, we will be reminded of her incredible legacy.  Now more than ever as women’s role in our society is being debated, it’s critical to remember and honor women like Elizabeth Blackwell who truly changed the game.”

Another speaker at the event was Carey Bloomfield, great-niece of Elizabeth Blackwell, who has a career in nonprofit fundraising.

2 thoughts on “NY Infirmary for Women and Children founder honored with plaque

  1. I first read a children’s book about Dr. Elizabeth, sometime in the year 2000. I was so impressed and overwhelmed by her life story, that there and then, I decided to write a book about her. Since then I have been reading about her whatever I could get my hands on, searching and collecting material and pictures. I have written an almost 500 pages book in my mother tongue, Marathi, an Indian language. The book is almost ready. In fact I came across this article during my search and if you permit, want to use the photographs in my book. I will be publishing the book by the title “Pioneer Elizabeth Blackwell.” Subtitled “Pioneer work for the women to enter in the field of Medicine.’ I am planning to publish this as a e -book on Amazon Kindle.
    I feel very much indebted to her struggle and work, even though I was born exactly 100 years after the year 1849, when she achieved her MD degree. By the way, I too am a physician and was a Professor of Medicine in medical college in India.
    I would like to hear from you whether I can use this photographs in my book.
    Thanks.

    • From an email from Janice Nimura:
      The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation has kindly invited me to do a virtual illustrated talk on the Blackwell sisters and public health, co-sponsored by Women of NoHo and coming up in a couple of weeks:

      Sister Doctors in a Time of Need: Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell and the Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children on Bleecker Street
      Wednesday, April 22, 6:30-7:30pm
      RSVP here for Zoom link
      Click here to see all of GVSHP’s upcoming e-programs.

      I hope you can join–this is one event that everyone can get to!

      In book news, I’m thrilled to report that the now-officially-titled The Doctors Blackwell: How Two Pioneering Sisters Brought Medicine to Women, and Women to Medicine is finished and making its way through production at W.W. Norton, on track for publication in time for Elizabeth Blackwell’s 200th birthday next February.

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