Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell open New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children

Known worldwide as the first woman to receive her degree as a Doctor of Medicine, Elizabeth Blackwell represents a historic moment in modern medicine and equal rights for women.

An ardent medical and social reformer, Dr. Blackwell founded the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children in 1857, which still exists today as New York Downtown Hospital. Dr. Blackwell also founded the National Health Society, was the first woman to be placed on the British Medical Register, and taught at England’s first college of medicine for women. She pioneered in preventive medicine and in the promotion of antisepsis and hygiene in regard to infection control.

New York Downtown Hospital is a not-for-profit, acute (medical) care, teaching hospital in New York City and is the only hospital in Lower Manhattan (meaning, in this case, south of Greenwich Village).

The name and location of the hospital has gone through several changes since Elizabeth Blackwell founded the New York Dispensary for Poor Women and Children in 1853. In 1857 she opened the hospital under the name of New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children at a different location (7th Street), near the present day Tompkins Square Park. As the hospital required more space it was moved again the next year 1858 to Stuyvesant Square. Finally in 1981, merging with the Beekman Downtown Hospital, it relocated to its present site in Lower Manhattan under the name of New York Infirmary-Beekman Downtown Hospital. In 1991 it was renamed New York Downtown Hospital. In 1997 after three years of affiliation with NYU Medical Center the name was changed to NYU Downtown Hospital and in 2005 the affiliation with the NYU Medical Center ceased and the hospital reverted back to the name New York Downtown Hospital.
The Downtown Hospital operates 170 beds, and offers a full range of inpatient and outpatient services, as well as community outreach and education. It is also a leader in the field of emergency preparedness and disaster management. The Hospital serves the area’s diverse neighborhoods including Wall Street, Battery Park City, Chinatown, SoHo, TriBeCa, Little Italy, and the Lower East Side. It is the closest acute care facility to the Financial District, to the seat of the City government, and to some of New York’s most popular tourist attractions.

Soon after her return to the U.S., Elizabeth opened a free dispensary to provide out-patient treatment to poor women and children, but it was open only a few hours a week and its services were limited. In 1857, she closed the dispensary and opened the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children, a full-scale hospital with beds for medical and surgical patients. It's purpose was not only to serve the poor, but also to provide positions for women physicians and a training facility for female medical and nursing students. The medical staff at first consisted of Elizabeth and two of her protégées, her sister Emily and Marie Zakrzewska. This institution still exists as the New York University Downtown Hospital.