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At that time, after some
discussion, I agreed with her: now I think that this plan would have been
better than that which I afterwards followed. On the same evening, I
proposed, and we agreed, that, on a year from that day (the 1st of May,
1857), the New-York Infirmary should be opened.

I went to rest with a light heart, but rose sorrowfully in the morning.
"In one year from to-day, the Infirmary must be opened," said I to myself;
"and the funds towards it are two pairs of half-knit babies' stockings."
The day was passed in thinking what was the next best scheme to raise
money for its foundation. At length I remembered my visit to Boston, and
some friends there whose influence might help me _to beg_ for an
_institution for American women_. For myself I could never have begged; I
would sooner have drowned myself: now I determined to beg money from
Americans to establish an institution for their own benefit. This plan was
disclosed to Dr. Blackwell, and agreed upon, as there was nothing risked
in it; I taking the whole responsibility.

On the next day, the fair-meeting was held at Dr. Blackwell's. The new
plan was brought forward; and, although it was as yet nothing but a plan,
it acted like a warm, soft rain upon a field after a long drought. The
knitting and sewing (for which I have a private horror under all
conditions) were laid aside, to my great relief; and the project was
talked of with so much enthusiasm, that I already saw myself in
imagination making my evening visits to the patients in the New-York
Infirmary; while all the members present (and there were unusually many; I
think, six or seven) discussed the question the next day among their
circles of friends, whether Henry Ward Beecher or a physician of high
standing should make the opening speech in the institution.

This excitement increased the interest exceedingly and the succeeding
meetings were quite enthusiastic. The babies' stockings were never again
resumed (don't think that, because I detested those stockings so much, I
am cruel enough to wish the little creatures to go barefoot); but plans
were made for raising money in New York, and for getting articles for sale
on a larger scale. Dr. Blackwell wrote to her sister. Dr. Emily
Blackwell, who was at that time studying in England, requesting her to
make collections among their friends in that country; which she did with
success.

After having thus thoroughly impressed the public mind with the idea that
the Infirmary must be opened, we began to look about for a suitable house.
In autumn, I went to Boston to see what aid could be obtained there. I
cannot tell you here in what manner I became acquainted with a circle of
noble women, who had both means and the disposition to employ them for
such a purpose: it suffices to say, that I interested them in the
undertaking and obtained a hundred dollars towards the expenses of the
fair, together with a promise of a large table of fancy-goods, and an
invitation to come again in case any further aid was needed. At the end of
three weeks, I left Boston for Philadelphia; but here I was not
successful, as all who were interested in the medical education of women
contributed largely already to the Philadelphia College. A small table of
fancy-goods was the result of my visit there. The money and promise of
goods that I received in Boston stimulated our friends in New York to such
a degree, that, in spite of Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell's doubts as to whether
we should cover the expenses, the fair realized a thousand dollars. Yet
this was not half sufficient to commence the proposed hospital; and I
therefore proposed to Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell that I should go on another
begging tour through New England, while she and her sister (Dr. Emily
Blackwell, who had arrived from England a week before the fair) should
arrange matters in New York, where they had more acquaintances than I. I
went for the second time to Boston in February, and met with unexpected
success; bringing back about six hundred dollars in cash, with promises of
a like sum for the ensuing two years. I had represented our scheme as a
three-years' experiment In the mean time, the Drs. Blackwell had hired a
large, old-fashioned house, No. 64, Bleeker Street, which we had looked at
together, and which was very well suited to our purpose, devoting the rest
of their time chiefly to endeavors to interest the Legislature in our
enterprise; the result of which was, that, though nothing was granted us
that spring, the next winter, when we could show our institution in
operation, the usual dispensary grant was extended to us.

On the 3d of April, I returned from Boston, and almost immediately went to
work with some of our lady-managers to order beds and to furnish the
house and dispensary, and also to superintend the internal changes. After
five weeks of hard work, I had the pleasure, on the 15th of May, 1857, of
listening in the wards of the New-York Infirmary to the opening speeches
delivered by the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, Dr. Elder, and Rev. Dudley Tyng.

A few days afterwards, I admitted the first house-patient and opened the
dispensary, which I attended two days in the week; Drs. Elizabeth and
Emily Blackwell taking charge of it for the remaining four days. I had
offered two years' gratuitous services as my contribution to the
Infirmary, remaining there not only as resident physician, but also as
superintendent of the household and general manager; and attending to my
private practice during the afternoon. The institution grew rapidly, and
the number of dispensary patients increased to such an extent, that the
time from seven in the morning until one in the afternoon was wholly
occupied in the examination of cases. In the second year of the existence
of the Infirmary the state of Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell's health compelled
her to go to Europe: and for nine months Dr. Emily Blackwell and I took
charge of the business, which at this time was considerable; the
attendance at the dispensary averaging sixty daily.

During the course of this year, I received letters from some of the
Trustees of the New-England Female Medical College in Boston, inquiring
whether I were inclined to take charge of a hospital in connection with
that institution. A consultation on the subject with Drs. Elizabeth and
Emily Blackwell seemed to prove to us, that by doing this, and helping the
college to attain its objects, we could probably best aid the cause of the
medical education of women. After hesitating for a long time what course
to pursue, I went to Boston in the spring of 1859, in order to define in a
public address my views and position in respect to the study of medicine.
I found so great a desire prevailing for the elevation of the institution
to the standard of the male medical colleges, and such enthusiasm in
respect to the proposed hospital, that I concluded at once to leave the
Infirmary; Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell's absence having proved that it could
be sustained by two, not only without loss, but with a steady increase,
secured by the good done by its existence. Having fulfilled my promise of
two years to the institution, on the 5th of June, 1859, I left for
Boston, where I am now striving to make the hospital-department as useful
as the New-York Infirmary is to the public and the students.

Now, my dear Mary, you may think me very long in my story, especially in
the latter part, of which you know much already; but I could not refrain
from writing fully of this part of my life, which has been the object of
all my undertakings, and for which I have borne trials and overcome
difficulties which would have crushed nine out of ten in my position. I do
not expect that this will be the end of my usefulness; but I do expect
that I shall not have to write to you any more of my doings. It was simply
in order that you, my friend, should understand me fully, and because you
have so often expressed a wish to know my life before we met, that I
finished this work. Now you have me externally and internally, past and
present: and although there have been many influences besides which have
made their impressions on my peculiar development, yet they are not of a
nature to be spoken of as facts; as, for instance, your friendship for me.

On looking back upon my past life, I may say that I am like a fine ship,
that, launched upon high seas, is tossed about by the winds and waves,
and steered against contrary currents, until finally stranded upon the
shore, where, from the materials, a small boat is built, just strong
enough to reach the port into which it had expected to enter with proudly
swelling sails. But this ambition is entirely gone; and I care now very
little whether the people recognize what is in me or not, so long as the
object for which I have lived becomes a reality.

And now, my good friend, I must add one wish before I send these last few
pages to you; namely, that I may be enabled some day to go with you to
Berlin, to show you the scenes in which my childhood and youth were
passed, and to teach you on the spot the difference between Europe and
America. All other inducements to return have vanished. The death of my
father during the last year severed the last tie that bound me to my
native place. Nearly all the men who aided in promoting my wishes have
passed away; and the only stimulus that now remains to revisit the home of
my youth is the wish to wander about there with you, and perhaps two or
three other of my American friends. Until this can be accomplished, I hope
to continue my present work in the New-England Female Medical College,
which, though by no means yet what we wish it to be, is deserving of
every effort to raise it to the stand that it ought to take among the
medical institutions of America.

Yours with love,

Marie E. Zakrzewska.
Boston, September, 1859.

* * * * *

The sweet, pure song has ended. Happy she who has been permitted to set
its clear, strong notes to music. I need not murmur that my own old
hand-organ grows useless, since it has been permitted to grind out the
_key_.



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