Marie Elisabeth Zakrzewska was born on September 6, 1829, in Berlin. She was the eldest child of Ludwig and Caroline. Marie was an exceptional student, but when she was thirteen, her education ended since her father thought that she just needed the basic skills of education.
Marie’s mother became a midwife to help the family when their financial situation was in jeopardy. Marie’s mother’s practice was successful, and she had Marie go with her on her rounds. Interested in medicine, Maire read any medicinal books which she could. She applied to the government midwifery school when she was nineteen. Denied entrance, she tried again at twenty. After several failed applications, she was admitted to the program. When Dr. Joseph Schmidt saw her work, he was impressed. Schmidt made sure that the school accepted her. She was the youngest student to be admitted, and she was able to outperform all the others in the program. After graduation, Dr. Schmidt had her appointed as chief midwife and professor at the school. This appointment only lasted six months because Schmidt died six months after being placed in the position.
Marie set off to work in America. After arriving in the U.S., she realized the difficulties that female physicians faced. She and her sister had to work sewing and embroidering. They earned as little as a dollar a day. A year later, she met Elizabeth Blackwell. She was the first female to receive a medical degree from what was formerly an all-male college. With Blackwell’s help, she was accepted into the Western Reserve University’s medical program. Despite many obstacles, she obtained her medical degree in 1856. Elizabeth and Marie worked together running the New York Infirmary for Women and Children.
Zakrzewska was offered a job as Professor of Obstetrics and Diseases of Women can Children in Boston. She was also to head the new clinical program at the Boston Female Medical College. Marie resigned when the founder of the college insisted that female graduates would be addressed as ”doctresses” instead of doctor.
Marie knew that women who were studying to be doctors needed a hospital to provide them with experience in medical treatments. She opened the New England Hospital for Women and Children in 1862. Marie wanted to prove that women were able to run hospitals and practice medicine. The hospital also provided training for nurses.