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Yale University Library News, Events and Exhibits: Early Women Healers and Health Advocates Early Women Healers and Health Advocates

Works by Women from the Medical Historical Library Cushing/Whitney Medical Library Yale University

Women have served as healers throughout history. However, once universities were founded in the Middle Ages and formal medical education began, women were mostly barred from attendance and from receiving degrees. It was not until the mid-nineteenth century that formal medical education became available to women. Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) who graduated from Geneva Medical College in New York in 1849 was the first woman in the modern era to obtain an M.D. In the early nineteenth century, certain orders of nuns were trained to serve as nurses; formal training for laywomen began with Florence Nightingale (1820-1910).

This special exhibit curated by Toby Appel, John R. Bumstead Librarian for Medical History at the Cushing/Whitney Medical Library, features works by women before the era of medical and nursing schools for women. It highlights the many ways that women could and did participate in healing and health advocacy. Women served as midwives, naturalists and illustrators of herbals; translators of medical works; scientists; authors of cookbooks containing medical recipes; and writers on popular health especially the care of children. They advocated before governments to create mental asylums and reform health care in prisons, and they engaged in alternative medical therapeutics such as hydropathy. There were a great many women healers and health advocates before the mid-nineteenth century, but relatively few who published books.

The display includes the 1533 edition of Physica by the abbess Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), on the medical uses of metals, plants and animals; a 1609 volume on midwifery and the related diseases of women and newborns by Louise Boursier (ca. 1563-1636), midwife to the Queen of France; and the beautiful folio hand-colored herbal of an earlier Elizabeth Blackwell (1707-1758) of London. Mid-nineteenth century works of Elizabeth Blackwell, M.D. and Nightingale conclude the exhibit.

On display in the Sterling Memorial Library nave, the exhibit will run from March 1 through April 30, 2007.
For additional information on the exhibit contact Toby Appel, Librarian for Medical History, Cushing/Whitney Medical Library (toby.appel@yale.edu).

Location: SML

Start Date: 03/01/2007

Time:

© 2006 Yale University Library
Page Last Updated: 4/16/2014
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