Women Who Pave the Way: the Blackwell Award Recipients

The road to equality is rarely without resistance, so to honor the revolutionary women crossing unprecedented boundaries, Hobart and William Smith issued the first Elizabeth Blackwell Award in 1958 in honor of William Smith College’s 50th anniversary. The recognition came nearly 100 years after its namesake Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell graduated from Geneva Medical College (a department of Geneva College, the precursor to Hobart) and became the first female medical doctor in America. Since it was established, the Colleges have honored 40 women with awards, nine during President Mark D. Gearan’s tenure. Reserved for honorees who match the extraordinary feats of Blackwell herself, the award is given to women whose lives exemplify outstanding service to humankind.

The Why

“The example of Elizabeth Blackwell should shine in each of our hearts. For she was a fighter who confronted the steepest barriers and wore down those she couldn’t knock down. She was a doer with purpose and that purpose was to excel while serving and healing others. Her career is a reminder that each of us must choose whether to live our lives selfishly and complacently, or to act with boldness and faith.” – Madeleine K. Albright, 32nd recipient of the Elizabeth Blackwell Award

Words of Wisdom

“For Elizabeth Blackwell in 1849, the barriers must have seemed insurmountable. What is clear today is that a revolution has occurred in the educational and career possibilities for women.” – Dr. Pricilla Schaffer ’64, Sc.D. ’94, former chief of the laboratory of molecular virology at Harvard Medical School

“I am confident that you don’t truly know yourself until you become involved in serving others. I have found the most rewarding thing you can do in life is to go above and beyond yourself.” – Dr. Wangari Maathai Sc.D.’94, P'94, P’96; founder of the Green Belt Movement and Nobel laureate

“It’s doubly an honor to find myself associated with the individuals who have received the Blackwell Award before today. I am very grateful to be here, but especially grateful that Hobart and William Smith have used this award since 1958 to celebrate the service and historic achievements of these women. I can’t think of a more fitting tribute to Elizabeth Blackwell.” – Dr. Janet L. Yellen, chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

The Who


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