When Elizabeth Blackwell applied to medical colleges in 1847, they rejected her left and right because she was a woman, and no woman had ever earned a medical degree from an American institution of higher learning. It was a ridiculous idea to even think about accepting her. So ridiculous that it happened! One school wanted to make a point, which backfired.
The Geneva Medical College, however, did not give Elizabeth an upfront yes or no. They put the issue up for vote under the stipulation that if but one student voted against her, she would not be admitted. This reads a little like an attempt to show her how very unwelcome she was, and possibly to humiliate her even further. What student in his right mind would vote for a woman to have access to a medical school?
The students, however, believed it to be a ludicrous joke and decided to have some fun: all one-hundred fifty men voted for Elizabeth.
It was as if the world had been tipped - a female student was to be allowed into the all-male medical domain!
Still, actually attending school in such an atmosphere was not easy. Blackwell graduated with a medical degree in 1849 and changed the course of medical history. Read more at ScienceZest. Link -via Ed Yong