Elizabeth Blackwell (1821–1910) is honored on the 18-cent stamp of the Prominent Americans Series. Blackwell was a pioneer and roll model for women in the medical profession at a time when few women were admitted to medical schools. She was the first woman to receive a medical degree, graduating at the head of her class from Geneva Medical College in 1849. Barred from practice in most hospitals, she opened her own clinic, which later became the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children. She was the sister-in-law of feminist Lucy Stone.
When the Civil War began, Blackwell trained nurses, and in 1868 she founded a Medical College for Women at the Infirmary to formally train women as physicians. In 1869, leaving her sister Emily in charge of the college, she went to England, where, with Florence Nightingale, she opened the Women’s Medical College. Blackwell taught at the newly-created London School of Medicine for Women and became the first female doctor in the U.K. Medical Register.
The violet 18-cent Blackwell stamp was issued on January 20, 1974, in Geneva, New York, where she had received her medical degree 125 years earlier. The sheet stamp was printed from plates of four hundred and sold in panes of one hundred stamps with gauge 11 x 10.5 perforations. Robert Geissmann designed the issue, and Edward P. Archer and A. Saaverdra executed the engraving. Elizabeth Blackwell had never before appeared on a U.S. postage stamp.
The 18-cent stamp paid the foreign surface letter and air postcard rates and later was used to pay the domestic first class letter rate.