Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors?

Author: Tanya Lee Stone
Illustrated: Marjorie Priceman
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (February 19, 2013)
Source: Personal Copy
Audience: Ages 5 to 8
Nonfiction * Biography * Women's History * Women Doctors

Description from the Publisher's Website:
In the 1830s, when a brave and curious girl named Elizabeth Blackwell was growing up, women were supposed to be wives and mothers. Some women could be teachers or seamstresses, but career options were few. Certainly no women were doctors.

But Elizabeth refused to accept the common beliefs that women weren’t smart enough to be doctors, or that they were too weak for such hard work. And she would not take no for an answer. Although she faced much opposition, she worked hard and finally—when she graduated from medical school and went on to have a brilliant career—proved her detractors wrong. This inspiring story of the first female doctor shows how one strong-willed woman opened the doors for all the female doctors to come.

My thoughts on this book:
First, I caught a glimpse of Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell a few months ago at ALA Midwinter.  At that time, I knew it would be a perfect book for both Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday and also for Women's History Month.  This year, the theme of Women's History Month is Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination with a focus on women who have contributed to STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) fields.   

Second, Tanya Lee Stone is the author of this book.  I almost feel like I need to say nothing more.  Seriously, Stone is an amazing, amazing author of nonfiction books.  I was recommending nonfiction titles to one of my librarians a few weeks ago, and suddenly I stopped and realized that nearly every title I had recommended was a book written by Stone.  And to top it all off, Tanya Lee Stone writes both picture books and nonfiction for older readers.

I guess I should finally get to my thoughts on Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors?

Stone tells the story of Elizabeth Blackwell who became the first woman doctor in the United States.  Not an easy thing in the mid-1800's.  Blackwell received 28 rejections from medical schools until she received an acceptance letter from Geneva Medical School in upstate New York.  Blackwell graduated from medical school in 1849 at the age of 28.  Though the book ends with Blackwell's graduation from Medical School, the end notes provide further information about the challenges Elizabeth faced.  Those challenges led her, with the assistance of her sister who also became a doctor, to eventually open up the New York Infirmary for Women and Children in 1857.  This was followed by the opening of a Women's Medical College in 1868. 

Though the book focuses more on Blackwell as a child and what factors led her to pursue becoming a doctor, the inclusion of the author's note rounds out the story.  Stone's description of Blackwell's personality and spirit as a child is humorously portrayed through Priceman's illustrations.  What shines through the story is the determination and strength that Blackwell possessed that allowed her to break ground for other women to later become doctors. 

With Blackwell's text and Priceman's spirited illustrations, young readers will find this story very accessible.  If you love looking for nonfiction picture books or nonfiction biographies, then you will want to add Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell to your personal collection or to a classroom or school library. 

Look for this book at your local bookstore and shop indie when possible.

More about Tanya Lee Stone: website | blog | twitter | facebook |

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