“If Martha Washington, Whistler’s Mother, Susan B. Anthony and Pocahontas, why not Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell?” That question was posed by a brochure published to rally public support for a stamp to commemorate the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States. Endorsed by major professional organizations, the campaign emphasized that only 22 women had been honored on U.S. stamps, and that the 125th anniversary of Blackwell earning her M.D. would be a fitting occasion indeed. (Blackwell earned her medical doctorate on this day in 1849.)
When the stamp was issued in 1974, its 18-cent rate covered surface mail and overseas packages; supporters found it rarely used and difficult to find. Nonetheless, it enjoyed a seven-year life and almost lasted longer: In 1981, when the first-class rate rose to 18 cents, supporters again mounted a campaign—this time unsuccessful—to keep the stamp in use.