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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/211

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EARLY PRACTICE OF MEDICINE BY WOMEN.

Troppau, Catharina Tissheim, Helena Aldegunde, and Frau Erxleben are deserving passing notice. The last mentioned was one of the most successful female practitioners of the last century. Her maiden name was Dorothea Leporin, but she is best known as Frau Erxleben. Fräulein Leporin pursued her medical studies at the University of Halle, and obtained a diploma in 1734. She settled in the little town of Quedlinburg, at the foot of the Hartz Mountains, became the wife of the rector of the Church of St. Nicholas in the same place, industriously practiced her profession, and became eminent for her skill and learning. Her son, J. C. P. Erxleben, inherited from his mother a love of scientific pursuits and became a distinguished naturalist and professor in the University of Göttingen.

In England, Anna Wolley and Elizabeth of Kent were occupied with the preparation of drugs as early as the seventeenth century, and both published works on medical subjects.

In this hasty and superficial sketch of the history of the early practice of medicine by women we would not be true to the facts if we omitted mention of certain ignorant and vulgar women who assumed medical knowledge and medical skill to impose upon a too credulous public. That avaricious women, fond of notoriety and careless of their reputation, should imitate the methods adopted in every age by unprincipled men, is not surprising though it may be mortifying. To this class belonged Louise Bourgeois, nurse to Marie de' Medici, the Queen of Henry IV of France; though an ignorant charlatan, she acquired extraordinary influence over her royal patroness, and her career abounds in curious, eventful episodes. She was the author of several medical treatises on the diseases of women, one of which was published at Paris in 1617.

A century later another female practitioner flourished, of whom women have no reason to be proud. In the year 1738 Mrs. Joanna Stephens proclaimed in London that she had discovered a sovereign remedy for a painful disease. Notwithstanding her gross ignorance and vulgar demeanor, she secured a large circle of patients from among the upper and wealthy classes, and, after enriching herself by enormous fees drawn from their credulity, she proposed to make her medical discovery public in consideration of the modest sum of twenty-five thousand dollars. A subscription was started for this purpose and enthusiastically taken up; the clergy, lords, and ladies, with an inexplicable infatuation, hastened to add their names to the list of subscribers. Failing, however, to raise so large a sum of money, Mrs. Stephens's friends obtained a grant of the desired amount from Parliament. The certificate testifying to the "Utility, Efficacy, and Dissolving Power of the Medicines," bears the date March 5, 1739, and is signed by twenty justices. These dearly purchased remedies were three in number, "a Powder, a Decoction, and Pills." The powder consisted of calcined egg-shells and snails; the decoction was a dis-