Elizabeth Blackwell returns to New York
Blackwell returned to New York in 1851 but was unable to practice medicine for several years because no institution would hire her.
During this period she adopted an orphan, Katharine (Kitty) Barry, who remained her lifelong companion. She also wrote and delivered a series of papers on the importance of good hygiene, which won her the support of The Society of Friends, a Quaker organization. The Quakers began referring patients to Blackwell, and her practice began to grow. Because no one would rent space to her for her practice, she purchased a house in a run-down section of New York and opened an office in 1853
Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell established a practice in New York City, but had few patients and few opportunities for intellectual exchange with other physicians and "the means of increasing medical knowledge which dispensary practice affords." She applied for a job as physician at the women's department of a large city dispensary, but was refused. In 1853, with the help of friends, she opened her own dispensary in a single rented room, seeing patients three afternoons a week. The dispensary was incorporated in 1854 and moved to a small house she bought on 15th Street.
She had dreams of becoming a surgeon and began working in the field of maternity, but somehow obtained purulent conjunctivitis, which tragically left her blind in only one eye. Without depth perception, she would not or could not become a surgeon, so she decided to attempt another life back in New York. But there, she found even more difficulty in finding a post or even opening her own practice. So, she published papers and gave lectures. One of her most important contributions of the day was a focus on the importance of exercise and physical education for the female sex in schools. At that time, it was believed that females should not exercise, as it would cause infertility. However, Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell wanted to negate such myths that were rampant in society.