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.

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