• Happy birthday Ilene Cooper (The Golden Rule) and B. G. Hennessey (Because of You).
  • It’s the birth date of Jack Kent (1920–1985), Ther’s No Such Thing as a Dragon.
  • In 1804 a formal ceremony in St. Louis, Missouri, transfers ownership of the Louisiana Purchase land from France to the United States. Read The Louisiana Purchase by Peter and Connie Roop, illustrated by Sally Wern Comport.
  • It’s Middle Name Pride Day. Read The Girl with 500 Middle Names by Margaret Peterson Haddix, illustrated by Janet Hamlin.

Since 1987, Women’s History Month has been celebrated in March—a time to look at all the unsung heroines and their contributions over the years. In 2013 the talented duo of Tanya Lee Stone and Marjorie Priceman teamed up to create a picture book perfect for Women’s History Month, Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell.

Now that a woman can run for the presidency, children need some historical perspective to understand that not so long ago, women couldn’t hold certain jobs or even vote. Starting with a note of passionate outrage, key to so many of Tanya Stone’s books, the text reminds readers that there “was a time when girls weren’t allowed to become doctors.” In the 1830s, they could be wives, mothers, or possibly teachers and seamstresses. Then Elizabeth Blackwell entered the scene.

She slept on floors to toughen up and carried her brother around over her head until he backed down from a fight. She hated being sick and hid herself in a closet until she felt better, so that no one would fuss over her. But when Elizabeth was twenty-four, a friend who had been very ill confessed that she wished she could have been examined by a woman and encouraged Elizabeth to become a doctor. Working as a teacher, Elizabeth began to apply to medical schools. Twenty-eight of them didn’t want her. “Stubborn as a mule” she kept going, until the Geneva Medical School in Upstate New York welcomed her. Much to the surprise of everyone, she graduated at the top of her class in 1849; the first woman doctor in America.

Tanya Lee Stone has pared away the details of Elizabeth Blackwell’s life to create a succinct story with a happy ending. An author’s note and a list of sources round out the book and tell readers of Blackwell’s long life; she lived to the age of eighty-nine. With her usual élan, Marjory Priceman has added smart characterization, a strong sense of setting, and great humor to every page. In one particularly successful double-page spread, Elizabeth lies on a couch, with letters strewn around. “No” written in all forms and sizes appears in the art. In the corner, an attentive pooch holds a letter in his mouth to be delivered. And, on the next page, when she receives the letter, Elizabeth literally looks as if she is dancing for joy—and a sad dog waves goodbye. The vibrancy of the art perfectly matches the passion in the text.

If you know any young girl who dreams of a medical career or who just wants a satisfying, well-executed informational picture book, pick up Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? It will remind anyone during Women’s History Month just how much society has changed.

Here’s a page from Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?: 



Originally posted March 10, 2014. Updated for .

Tags: History, Science, Social Conscience, Women
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors?


  1. G. Perry says:

    Awesome! I’ve been an advocate of women becoming whatever they want to be since the day my daughter was born, and this will give me a new story to tell them.

    I’m off to find it.

  2. G. Perry says:

    Got it read.

    I love the art, and the story is truly inspirational.

    I can’t imagine being a female physician without having a photography of Elizabeth Blackwell on my office wall, as well have having this book on my desk, and a copy in the waiting room.

    I’m going to have to buy it.

  3. Anita says:

    Gordon — as always, thank you for your financial support for children’s books that you love.

  4. Jane says:

    Buying it for my daughter who is on her way to 1st year of medical school!

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