A new multi-million dollar health institute to aid the elderly, the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute, was opened last month in Bristol, England. It is named for America’s first female doctor, the forebear of Barbara Day of West Tisbury and Samuel B. Jones of Carlisle and Chilmark. Both, along with their spouses and Samuel Jones’s son, Steve, were in attendance at the celebration, as well as the three daughters — Scilla (sic), Margo and Jane, of the late George Blackwell of Chilmark. Dr. Blackwell was the great-great aunt of Mrs. Day and Sam and George Blackwell. Another dozen descendants, from other parts of the U.S. and Europe were also in attendance
The Blackwell family emigrated from Bristol to Cincinnati in the mid 19th century, and Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell’s brother, Henry, discovered the Vineyard on a sailing trip with a friend in 1864. Henry rowed into shore to mail a letter at the Squibnocket Post Office. He liked the landscape he saw, and the following year he returned. In time, he convinced other members of the family — including his sister, Elizabeth, to come to the Vineyard and Blackwell descendants have been coming ever since. They built their homes on Panorama Hill and Whale Hill overlooking Quitsa Pond.
Elizabeth Blackwell Institute researchers will be exploring ways of monitoring the health of the elderly who wish to remain in their own homes. They will use advanced engineering techniques to keep an eye on the over-all health of those being monitored and to check abnormal changes in their gait, mood and physical activity. Their work is expected to be especially useful when people have just returned home from a hospital after an operation or a stroke or are suffering from Parkinson’s disease or depression.
At the opening ceremony for the institute, Jeremy Tavare, its director, lauded Dr. Blackwell as “one of Britain’s great unsung heroes who was a pioneer in driving improvements in public health in the 19th century.” (With her sister Edith, who also became a doctor, Elizabeth Blackwell founded the New York Infirmary for Women and Children in lower Manhattan.)