Blanche Edwards-Pilliet (1858–1941) was a famous French physician, medical teacher, and leading social reformer for women. Her father, Doctor George Hugh Edwards, was British. She, along with Augusta Déjerine-Klumpke, was one of the first women to intern at a hospital in Paris.
Home-schooled by her well educated father, Blanche grew up learning both French and English, mathematics, science, and the classics. After taking the baccalauréat-ès-lettres in 1877 and the baccalauréat-ès-sciences in 1878, at the age of 19 she was able to enroll in the faculty of medicine in Paris.
Career and later life
In 1885, Edwards-Pilliet applied to be a hospital intern over 90 doctors and interns signed a petition against it because she was a women. However, the Paris municipal council, allowed her case to be heard and eventually, on July 31, Eugène Poubelle signed her case, allowing her to work in Parisian hospitals, on condition she did not use their intern title to enter the final exams to be a doctor. She did.
Blanche Edwards-Pilliet's specialty was surgery. Despite fierce competition, especially since she was a woman, in 1889 her prize-winning dissertation helped her create her first consulting room, where she worked for the next 50 years. The first few years were a struggle: most of her patients were working-class women and children, and she never asked for payment from the uninsured poor. She also taught school medicine, despite receiving low pay. In fact, she was the only woman of her time offered a medical teaching post by the Assistance Publique (Public Hospital System).
During 40 years she has been a professor at the School for the Training of Male and Female Nurses in the Salpetriere and Bicetre Hospital.
She spent much of her time advocating for social reform, principally for women and children. In 1901, Edwards-Pilliet founded The Ligue des Mères de Famille, one of the first Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) from which many of France's social organizations later developed. Also member of the Parti radical, which advocated for women's suffrage, in 1930 she was elected vice president of one of their Paris sections. She also became Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur (National Order of the Legion of Honour) in 1924.
She died in 1941, at the age of 82.
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