(New York: George P. Putnam, 1852). 187 x 120 mm. (7 1/2 x 4 5/8"). 180 pp. FIRST EDITION.
Modern brown half morocco over taupe buckram boards, raised bands, gilt titling. Half title with contemporary ink owner inscription of N. M. Terry dated 9 August 52. A couple of faint spots to buckram, isolated mild foxing or trivial marginal smudge, but a fine copy, clean and fresh internally, in an unworn binding.
This is a very attractive copy of the first book written by the first woman to earn a medical degree in the United States. Originally presented as a series of lectures, this work describes the value of exercise and physical education to the long-term health of girls and young women--a subject the author considers to be greatly neglected in the modern system, but of equal importance to any intellectual or moral education. As she states in her introduction to the present work, "we neglect the body, we treat it as an inferior dependent, subject to our caprices and depraved appetites, and quite ignore the fact, that it is a living wonderful being, full of our humanity, and capable of immense service, if we would reverence it as our friend and equal."
Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) was born in England but immigrated with her family to America while still a young girl. Following the premature death of their father, Blackwell and her sisters first supported themselves through teaching, but Elizabeth soon set her sights on becoming a physician. Despite the difficulty of finding a university that would accept women, she was finally admitted to the Geneva Medical School (now a part of the State University of New York) in 1847 and two years later graduated first in her class with a degree in medicine--the first woman in the United States to achieve this distinction. Severe vision impairment (caused by a disease she contracted while working in a French clinic) prevented her from becoming a surgeon, so Blackwell instead established herself as a physician and lecturer in New York City. She would later co-found the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, which eventually included a medical school that provided training for women doctors and nurses.
Blackwell is perhaps best remembered as an advocate for women in the medical field, and for taking a holistic view of disease at a time when many of her male colleagues were following "material medicine," treating the body not as a whole but as a kind of machine composed of separate parts. As ANB explains, "Blackwell believed there was a social, political, and moral component to illness. Prevention was even more important than cure, and insuring health meant comfortable housing, healthy food, and moral education for all. Indeed, she saw the practice of medicine as an opportunity to bring about fundamental social change." Though critics would also point out her gendered approach to medicine--she "modelled the doctor-patient relationship on the interactions between mother and child," in the words of ANB--there is no question that Blackwell was a pioneer in her field and instrumental in paving the way for scores of women doctors that came after her. This book is very scarce in the marketplace. (ST16607)