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Cholera Epidemics in the 19th Century

The Great Plague of London, 1665

The Boston Smallpox Epidemic, 1721

“Pestilence” and the Printed Books of the Late 15th Century

Spanish Influenza in North America, 1918–1919

Syphilis, 1494–1923

Tropical Diseases and the Construction of the Panama Canal, 1904–1914

Tuberculosis in Europe and North America, 1800–1922

The Yellow Fever Epidemic in Philadelphia, 1793

General Materials

Notable People

Related Links


Blackwell Family Papers

Samuel Blackwell, sugar refiner and lay preacher, emigrated from England to New York City in 1832, bringing his wife Hannah (Lane) Blackwell, eight children, and a governess. Their youngest son, George Washington Blackwell, was born in the United States. The family moved to Newark, New Jersey, and then to Cincinnati, Ohio. The family was bound together in a tight and supportive network even when, eventually, they were scattered from Wisconsin to India. None of the five daughters married. Among the members of an energetic and talented family, two of the daughters, Elizabeth Blackwell (1821–1910) and Emily Blackwell (1826–1910), were pioneering physicians.

The full collection at the Schlesinger Library consists of over 80 boxes that span four generations of the Blackwell family. Materials include correspondence, diaries, photographs, and account books.

Series II (Children of Samuel and Hannah [Lane] Blackwell) contains wills, papers about various family estates, and voluminous correspondence on a variety of family, political (anti-slavery and suffrage), travel, courtship, and business matters. Elizabeth’s letters to Emily describe schoolteaching in North Carolina, experiences during medical training, and medical practice in Europe. Other correspondents include Emily Davies, Sophia Jex-Blake, and Florence Nightingale. Letters to Elizabeth discuss patients, medical training for women, and medical practice in the United States and Europe. Among the letters in this series, noted below, are those illustrating the professional relationship between Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to receive an MD from an American medical school, and Florence Nightingale, the internationally influential British nursing theorist and sanitary practices advocate. The letters include a discussion of issues surrounding syphilis.