Gender peculiarities of medieval medicine in europe: female healer

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Oksana Drach


Introduction. Women’s history can be represented as a huge interdisciplinary field that covers socio-economic, demographic, cultural-anthropological, psychological, and intellectual dimensions of the modern civilization, serves the purpose of development of intercultural dialogue and ensures the principle of unity in diversity.

Purpose. In modern Ukrainian historiography, no comprehensive work on the gender approach in the history of medicine has been created. The goal of the article is to study the gender peculiarities of medieval medicine in Europe, in particular, possibilities and methods of fulfilment of women in the medical sphere.

Results. Characteristic figure of the European High Middle Ages is a female healer. Medical knowledge was included in the education component of a noble woman: she was taught to treat injuries, which a man could get at war or during hunting. By the 12th century female monasteries served as treatment centres. That’s why nuns also possessed required medical skills. In the village female healers, so-called “wise women”, cared for patients and treated them. They combined ancient knowledge about medicinal herbs and plants, practical experience and elements of magic.

In the 14th century women were forbidden to have access to the university medical education. This fact substantially minimized the possibility of becoming a doctor. Certified male doctors treated medical women without a license with suspicion. They were constantly accused of incompetence and even brought to court for illegal treatment.

Medieval medical treatises offer a range of activities for easy and successful childbirth. Paediatric literature is imbued with the idea of a strong relationship between the mother and baby and the appropriateness of breastfeeding. The opinion on the female body as a source of healing properties was established.

Conclusion. In the sphere of women’s diseases, childbirth, and upbringing of new-borns female doctors remained serious competitors to certified male doctors with university education. For many centuries, the use of feminine labour in medicine has become predominantly obstetric (midwives) and care for ill persons.

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