It seems likely, at least in the early social orders, that females developed the role of healers. At some stage, the ability to heal became endowed with mystical connotations and, not surprisingly, became a source of power. It was probably at that time that males began to take on the roles of healers. We do not know whether in the very early human societies males and females had equal social stature. A Mesopotamian female was obedient to her father, her husband, her father-in-law, and eventually, even to her sons. The earliest female healers in recorded history were the female physicians of ancient Egypt Brooke At that time, female patients were treated only by female physicians and medical specialties were well established.
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Within the temples, in special birth houses, the patients were cared for by female obstetricians and midwives. Hatshepsut — BC championed female physicians and established three medical schools, although her brothers happily claimed the credit for her work. In The Odyssey, an Egyptian woman known as Polydamma was credited with supplying illicit drugs to Helen, daughter of Zeus. The female dynasty of Egyptian queens began around BC.
The queens themselves were physicians, and they enthusiastically promoted all manner of medical and scientific practice. The medical schools flourished. The physicians of classical Greece received their education in Egypt, particularly in the medical school in Alexandria.
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The end of the female dynasty saw the decline of the role of females in medical practice and the rise of male priests and healers in Egypt. In Greece, the Athenian wife was seen as the child bearer and chief domestic servant. She had no independent status and could not own property, with the exceptions of clothing, jewelry, and slaves.
It was even up to her husband to decide whether to keep a newborn child. Some were taught to read and write, but it is often said that during this era the most intellectually advanced Athenian females were prostitutes. Aspasia was the proprietress of a house of young prostitutes who were renowned for their intellect as well as their beauty.
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By around BC, Greek girls were educated in gynacaea female-only schools , where they were taught the skills necessary for successful household management. Despite the low general status of females, however, there was a tradition of female healers. Theano, for example, was the wife of Pythagoras and after his death took over the running of his school, teaching philosophy and medicine. One area where females did outperform males was in the Roman slave markets, where a healthy female often cost 50 times the price of a healthy male.
Several important texts were written during this era. A gynecology and obstetrics text written by Aspasia in the first century AD was the standard text until the work of Trotula Platearius, in the twelfth century. Cleopatra not the Egyptian queen, — AD wrote a gynecology text that was in use until the sixteenth century Brooke During the first century BC, the status of the females in Rome was somewhat better than the status of Greek females. Roman females could own property and a dowry was not mandatory.
The Roman males, however, were generally much better educated than their wives. For a comprehensive discussion of the role of female healers in ancient Egypt and classical Greece, Women Healers Through History Brooke is highly recommended. The rise of Christianity has often been blamed for the denial of education to females. This accusation, while partially true, certainly does not provide a complete explanation.
As Christianity became the dominant religion, Christian females became physicians. One such woman, Fabiola who died in AD , was a physician who dedicated her life and practice to the care of the poor and opened the first hospital for the poor in Rome. By AD, four monasteries had been established at Bethlehem.
There were problems for female scholars, however. Religious orders took over the practice and preservation of healing skills. The exception was in Celtic Britain where the study and practice of medicine continued and female physicians became part of the folklore of the British Isles.
Morgan le Fay is remembered in Arthurian legend as the high priestess and healer of Avalon. The situation in the Middle East was somewhat different. The medical school at Baghdad had male and female students. Salerno became famous as a healing center and the medical school was deemed to be the best in Europe. The school was open to males, females, Jews, and Muslims.
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The s saw the publication of two medical books by female authors. Diseases of Women, by Trotula Platearius, a professor of medicine at the University of Salerno, became the major gynecology text in use for the next seven centuries. The Book of Simple Medicine, by Hildegard von Bingen, a German abbess, identified 47 diseases and medicinal herbs.
She was also an accomplished painter. Two events occurred, however, that severely curtailed the educational prospects of females. In , the Inquisition of Toulouse forbade the reading of the Bible by laypersons. This ban effectively placed European education in the monasteries and thus made it available only to males.
In England, the tradition of female academia within convents remained until when Henry VIII closed all convents and schools. The closure lasted for 50 years, and, when the ban was lifted, England had been effectively deprived of its female teachers and scholars. The first universities appeared around in Bologna, Paris, and Oxford. The universities were established as training grounds for the clergy.
The teachings from classical Greece were rediscovered and formed the basis for most of the teaching and scholarship within the universities. As females could not enter the clergy, they were also banned from the universities. Although at that time females could still obtain an education within the convent system, the university ban effectively prevented females from having access to philosophy and mathematics, the foundations of modern science.
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In addition, because the clergy were not permitted to marry, potential female scholars were denied access to educated male mentors Wertheim The ban on females in universities lasted for almost years. The rise of modern science Sir Francis Bacon is often cited, at least by British and American authors, as being the father of modern scientific method. In the same breath, he is also often cited as the originator of the view of science as a masculine pursuit Keller In his writings, Bacon used a number of metaphors for science the male and nature the female.
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Bacon has served as an icon of scientific method for years, widely respected and quoted. By the mids, the microscope was accepted as a useful scientific tool. Physiology and biology blossomed.
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By the end of the century, red blood cells, capillaries, and various microorganisms had been discovered. In , the Royal Society was established. In the latter half of the s, the foundations for the modern discipline of neuroscience were being laid. One of the most important advances of this time was the establishment of the first insane asylums in France and the recognition of insanity as an illness rather than a derangement of the soul or possession by demons.
Also, around this time, anesthetics were discovered, giving a much more humane perspective to the practice of medicine. In , Franz Gall published the first of four volumes on the structure and function of the nervous system. Much of his work was later shown to be correct. He identified the function of the gray and white matter and made a systematic analysis of the different parts of the brain.
His work was sophisticated and insightful and should stand as a milestone in the study of neuroanatomy.
By the mids, the formula for female neglect was well established. Few females had the education or support and encouragement to pursue any kind of science, let alone a scientific investigation of the qualities of the female brain.
Females who did receive medical training often worked in areas catering to the care of females and children or the poor. In many cases, this was probably by choice, but in at least some cases these were clearly the only areas where they were allowed to practice medicine.