Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors?
The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell
Written by Tanya Lee Stone
Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman
Lesson idea from Classroom Bookshelf
Classroom ideas from About Education
Tanya Lee Stone's book is set in the 1830's and tells the story of Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor in America. The story opens with introducing the idea that women weren't always allowed to be doctors. Then, the author sets up the time period and introduces readers to Elizabeth Blackwell as a young girl. Readers of Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors? learn about Blackwell's childhood and personality before learning what inspired her to become a doctor and how she pushed boundaries and created a change that opened doors for other women.
Element #4: Social Movement and Social Change
While the story of Elizabeth Blackwell may not be one of the most discussed topics when it comes to social movements and change, this book ties in nicely to element four of Social Justice Education because it shows how one person can create change that opens doors for a larger group. This story of Elizabeth Blackwell is applicable to the Women's Rights Movement, but more specifically it is a story of how with persistence, Blackwell changed people's minds about women going to college and being doctors. Readers see that Blackwell was able to change the mind of the young men and the teachers at the college she applied to. The author also shows readers that after graduating with the highest grades in her class, Blackwell continued to push for change because nobody would hire a female doctor. The author's note at the end of the story expresses that the careers women have today would have been impossible without Blackwell's determination.
In the Classroom
I would use this story in the classroom in an effort to bring social studies into literacy. To discuss main idea and details in a third grade class, I would do a read aloud with the story to extend on knowledge they would already have about Women's Rights. I would have students respond to writing prompts to explore the role of women in the 1830's, find details in the book to show why women weren't typically doctors at this time, and use information that will support their articulation of the main idea of the and why women could not be doctors. A literacy lesson centered on this story will effectively tie in social studies, reading and writing standards, and will successfully bring social justice into the classroom by showing students this specific aspect of social movement and change.
If possible, it would be great to invite a few successful women into the classroom. Doctors, business women, or even female college students would be great to open up a dialogue with students about the rights women have today that they were not afforded in the past.