Women’s History Month Kid Lit Review of “Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell” by Tanya Lee Stone

This is just the most charming and inspirational story of the first woman doctor, Elizabeth Blackwell. I even love the dedication: “For Liza, who is strong and brave and will be anything she sets her mind to.”


Bright, colorful, and playful gouaches by Caldecott Honoree Marjorie Priceman set the scene for Elizabeth’s story. Born in 1821 in England, Elizabeth and her family moved to the U.S. when she was eleven.


This was a little girl who used to sleep on the hard floor “just to toughen herself up.” She didn’t want to become a doctor though until, at age 24, a sick female friend told her of her wish to be examined by a woman rather than a man. Elizabeth thought it over and asked doctors and friends if she should go to medical school.


Twenty-eight schools turned her down, along with letters informing her women could not and should not be doctors.


Finally, Geneva Medical School in upstate New York accepted her. On January 23, 1849 she graduated at the top of her class, and was now the first woman doctor in America. One doctor wrote, “I hope, for the honor of humanity, that [she] will be the last.”

As the author writes:

“But as you know, she certainly was NOT.”

Although the book ends with Elizabeth’s graduation, an author’s note at the end of the book provides further facts about Elizabeth’s career. In 1857, along with her sister Emily, who also became a doctor, she started a hospital for women – the first hospital run by women, for women. In 1868 she opened a medical school just for women. And in 1871, she helped found the National Health Society. This amazing woman died at the age of eighty-nine in 1910. It’s quite a story!

The author ends her note with the observation:

“…more than half of all U.S. medical school students today are women. This would not have been possible without the courage and determination of this extraordinary woman.”

Evaluation: The text of this story by Stone combined with the lively illustrations by Marjorie Priceman manage to capture Elizabeth Blackwell’s tenacity, energy, and spirit in a remarkably compact and charming way. It has garnered a number of well-deserved awards.

Rating: 4/5

Published by Christy Ottaviano Books, an imprint of Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, part of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, 2013.


Parents Magazine Best Nonfiction Picture Book of 2013
NPR Best Books of 2013
National Science Teacher’s Association & Children’s Book Council: 2014 Outstanding Science Trade Book for K-12
A Junior Library Guild Selection

Elizabeth Blackwell

Elizabeth Blackwell


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9 Responses to Women’s History Month Kid Lit Review of “Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell” by Tanya Lee Stone

  1. jama says:

    Been wanting to see this one!

  2. This sounds pretty much perfect!

  3. This sounds wonderful Jill, I want to read it!

  4. What a cool history lesson. I had no idea. I’m glad to say that both my cardiologist and my dermatologist are women. As a 64-year old man, I see doctors, not women or men.

  5. Trish says:

    How do you find these books?!? Those illustrations look gorgeous.

  6. BermudaOnion says:

    Wow, 28 schools rejected her? I bet she was a wonderful doctor!

  7. aartichapati says:

    Ohmigosh, this sounds fantastic. I am going to keep this in mind to purchase at the appropriate time for the little toddler girls I know.

  8. trish422 says:

    This looks awesome, and I am going to go buy it right now! I can’t wait to read it to Madison.

  9. stacybuckeye says:

    Very cool. This is probably too busy for Gage, but I’d like to read it!

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