When we think of the eradication of the smallpox disease today, we think of the groundbreaking vaccine developed by Dr Jenner — but where did the original knowledge of smallpox inoculation (the knowledge on which the eventual vaccine was based) come from? We actually owe our thanks to the ancient practices kept alive by women healers in Greece, Turkey, China, India, and Africa. Basically, everywhere in the world *except* Western Europe…
Tag Archives: Feminism
What does the English Civil War have to do with feminist medicine?
In this video, I explain how the chaos of the English Civil War led to relaxed print censorship, increased literacy, and a boom time for female-focused medical books — the origin of the printed family herbal book.
Why is the stereotypical image we have of a witch always a woman?
In this short history, I pinpoint the exact year in mediaeval Europe when the idea of the inherent character of the Satanic witch as female began — and also explain how the blame for this misogynist bull really comes down to just a few travelling preachers.
Hidden Histories of Jewish & Muslim Medical Women in Mediaeval Europe
In testimony at her trial in 1410, the surgeon Perretta Petone claimed that ‘many women’ like her were practising all over Paris. While she may have been exaggerating for rhetorical effect, Perretta was certainly right that she was not alone as a female in medical practice. From the famous Surgeon Hersende, who accompanies St Louis on Crusade in 1250 and who would later marry a Parisian apothecary, to various Jewish eye doctors in 15th-century Frankfurt, to phlebotomists at the French Dominican nunnery of Longchamp, to Muslim midwives at the royal court of Navarre—whether they were surgeons or optometrists, barbers or herbalists or simply ‘healers’ (metgessa, medica, miresse, or arztzatin), women were almost always among the range of practitioners who offered their services in the western European medical marketplace from the 12th through 15th centuries. (Green 2008 [b] 120)
A great diversity of women practised some form of medicine throughout Europe in the Middle Ages (500-1500). Medical historians have identified a wide variety of female practitioners—from various regions, faiths, and social classes—engaged in general healing as well as specialised branches of medicine, including surgery, barber-surgery, and apothecary. Moreover, these female practitioners had the freedom and legal right to practise their healing arts. These rights were not taken away in systematic broad measures until the 14th century.
The open existence of officially sanctioned women healers came sputtering to a halt with the widespread establishment of European universities and the accompanying degrees and licences necessary to practise medicine. A licence to practise medicine as a physician could only be obtained after completing a university education—and women were banned from attending university so… that should have been that.Continue reading Hidden Histories of Jewish & Muslim Medical Women in Mediaeval Europe
‘Women’s Weeds’ Research Journal — VIDEO: Exploitation of 17th & 18th Century Folk Healers by the Professionalised Medical Community
A potted history of the exploitation of folk healers in Europe, as well as in conquered lands (the Americas, West Indies), in the 17th & 18th century by the professionalised medical community—with a special focus on how this impacted female folk healers.
‘Women’s Weeds’ Research Journal — VIDEO: Introduction to what it’s all about (+ bonus gorgeously Creepy Fort)
Here is a little video I’ve made explaining a bit of what my project is about. I’m now almost two months into my research journey! I will be presenting my preliminary findings at the Bridges 2022 conference, ‘Bridges Between Disciplines: Gender in STEM and Social Sciences’, at the Universitat Politécnica de València – Campus of Gandía. I’m excited to share what I have learned so far!
The blog post I reference in the video is ‘The Language of Flowers: Breaking into the Boys Club of Botany & the Flowery Dress as a Feminist Act’
‘Women’s Weeds’ Research Journal — Fun Fact: Well-behaved women seldom make history
Lead image ‘Well-Behaved Women’ by Barry D Bulsara
Available to buy: https://www.edinburghart.com/product/well-behaved-women/
Ah, the archive… That reliquary of truth and unbiased historical fact.
This week’s ‘fun fact’ is one of those research moments when another researcher points out a solution to your problem that actually should have been obvious from the beginning: if you’re looking for hidden histories, do not look at ‘official’ records, such as those kept by licensing guilds or at published works, nope. Look at court documents. Fines, punishments, incarcerations—executions. That is where you are going to find the true stories of what historical people—who were not White Christian Men (WCM)—were actually up to.Continue reading ‘Women’s Weeds’ Research Journal — Fun Fact: Well-behaved women seldom make history
Tattooed Ladies: Between Myth & Truth, from Burma to Barbie, the Feminist Evolution of ‘Monster Beauty’
Everyone knows: tattoos are for convicts, prostitutes, and drunken sailors. Any woman who dares get one is destined to live fast and die young. Harlots of the saucest degree. Her only job prospects are the circus sideshow or a biker’s Old Lady.
Or so we think…
Tattooed women have meant many things over the past several hundred years that have nothing to do these stereotypes: an emblem of the aristocracy, an unlikely international impulse towards sisterhood, and a mark of feminism.
But before I dive into what the tattoo is, let’s explore what it is not. Debunking myths is, to me, one of the most thrilling aspects of historical research. So here we go…
Continue reading Tattooed Ladies: Between Myth & Truth, from Burma to Barbie, the Feminist Evolution of ‘Monster Beauty’
The Language of Flowers: Breaking into the Boys Club of Botany & the Flowery Dress as a Feminist Act
Now considered a cloying cliché to be rejected by the modern feminist, the fascination with flowers and, in turn, a desire for a flowery aesthetic, was not initially about dainty innocence but instead showed evidence of a scientific mind. What follows here is what I’ve discovered about the connection between flowers and women.
Continue reading The Language of Flowers: Breaking into the Boys Club of Botany & the Flowery Dress as a Feminist Act