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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/205

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EARLY PRACTICE OF MEDICINE BY WOMEN.

her before the Areopagus, and accused her of abusing her trusts in dealing with female patients. To establish her innocence, Agnodice disclosed her sex, and her persecutors then accused her of violating the law prohibiting women and slaves from studying medicine, but the wives of the most influential Athenians arose in her defense and eventually obtained a revocation of the law.

The laws and customs of the Romans, as well as of the Greeks, were antagonistic to the entrance of women into the medical profession, yet Galen, Pliny, and others have preserved the names of a few distinguished in the art of healing: Phænarete, the mother of Socrates, Olympia of Thebes, Salpe, Sotira, Elephantis, Favilla, Aspasia, and Cleopatra. Of these, details are generally wanting. Scribonius Largus writes of an "honest matron" who cured several epileptic patients by an absurd remedy, and mentions having purchased of a woman a prescription for the cure of colic, the composition of which she had learned in Africa. Why Aspasia appears in this connection is not perfectly clear; the talented wife of Pericles, renowned as "a model of female loveliness," was doubtless too involved in affairs of state to undertake the absorbing cares of the medical profession. Cleopatra, the accomplished and luxurious Queen of Egypt, of whom so many marvels are related, is named among those women possessed of medical skill; she is reported to have compounded cosmetics and to have written on the art of preserving beauty, but this statement is probably no more worthy of credence than that of the infatuated alchemists of the middle ages, who would persuade us that Cleopatra was the fortunate possessor of the philosopher's stone and of the universal solvent. In proof of the former statement, they point to her personal attractions, unchanged by increasing years, and to her immense wealth; in proof of the latter, they rely with confidence on the well-known fable of the solution of the costly pearl at the extravagant banquet to Marc Antony.

In a Roman lady named Fabiola we find an early predecessor of Florence Nightingale. She was of the illustrious house of Fabius, and was celebrated in the fourth century for piety and charity. She is to be held in grateful remembrance as the founder of hospitals in Italy, and she is said to have personally nursed the sick at Ostia. The establishment of hospitals is commonly credited to the Emperor Julian, 362 A. D., with whom Fabiola was contemporary; perhaps she took an active part in the humane movement, and held a position analogous to that of lady manager in modern times.[1]

Half a century later lived a woman justly distinguished for combining in one person a high degree of female loveliness, womanly virtue, and intellectual strength: though not occupied with the art of

  1. ↑ Celsus, who wrote in the reign of Augustus (A. D. 1), mentions large hospitals where patients were treated with specific medicines. (Milligan's Ed., p. 14.) Seneca also refers to them as "valetudinaria."