International Women’s Day 2017 – inspirational women in health

Our top inspirational women in health for #IWD2017

Nearly all of us have heard of International Women’s Day and social media is going mad this morning with inspirational stories, tweets and quotes from some amazing sources.

International Women’s Day was founded in 1911 by the German theorist Clara Zetkin to recognise the incredible achievements of women across the world. The event is still going strong today and is celebrated globally by millions of men and women. Women’s day tackles many of the inequalities that still exist and challenges the gender gaps in pay and rights, as well as celebrating the women throughout history who have paved the way.

Some of my favourite stories that I have seen this morning are those about Elizabeth Blackwell and Marie Curie, who have both changed the way we view health and were pioneers for establishing women in medicine.

Elizabeth Blackwell
Elizabeth Blackwell

Elizabeth Blackwell was born on the 3rd February 1821 into a society that had a male dominated healthcare system.

Elizabeth decided that she was going to be a doctor and pursued her education and career vehemently. Despite being rejected by nearly all the medical schools she applied for, she managed to get into Geneva Medical College when the administration asked the other students whether she should be allowed admission. She was accepted on the premise that the application from a woman was a joke, but the other students soon became impressed with her capacity to learn and enthusiasm. Elizabeth insisted on being allowed to witness the gruesome medical autopsies and examinations despite the fact that they were thought not fit for a woman.

Having faced many prejudices and challenges along the way, Elizabeth became the first ever female physician in America and the first woman to graduate from medical school. Her legacy continued as her sister also went on to graduate with a degree in medicine. In 1857 along with her sister Emily, Elizabeth opened her own infirmary and continued to enable women to practice medicine.

My favourite Blackwell quote has to be “If society will not admit of woman’s free development, then society must be remodelled.”

Also advancing women in healthcare, Marie Curie is remembered globally for her work in fighting cancer and insightful discovery of polonium and radium.

Marie Curie
Marie Curie

The youngest of five children, Marie was born in Poland in 1867. Marie’s father died when she was young and a lack of money initially prohibited her from a formal higher education.

But Marie had an insatiable thirst for learning and did not give up on her dreams. In 1891 she moved to Paris and entered the Sorbonne University to study Maths and Physics, and it was in Paris that she later met Pierre Curie who would become her husband.

In 1903 Marie and her husband were awarded the Nobel Prize for their pioneering research into Radioactivity and she also completed her doctorate in Physics in the same year.
Despite her husband dying in a tragic accident in 1906, Marie went on to win a second Nobel Prize in 1911 for her work in Chemistry and developed mobile x-ray units that were used during the First World War. From her humble beginnings Marie pursued and won numerous scientific awards and merits as well as honorary degrees from a number of universities.

Curie said that “Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.”

I hope this has provided you with a bit more inspiration to achieve your goals, not only on International Women’s Day 2017 but every day.

Come over to Vavista Twitter @VavistaLife today to celebrate and share with us!