A Tribute to Womanhood

Welcome to "I Am Woman"...a tribute to all those women who had the courage and perseverance to stand up and fight for their rights. Thanks to those who came before us we enjoy a freedom unknown to women not too long ago. But, sadly, in many parts of the world, women continue to be repressed. In fact, even in this country there are women living today under the threat of violence...completely controlled by a violent spouse. Some may make it; others won't. Hopefully, one day ALL women will be free. May that day come soon.



In the eleventh century, Salerno, Italy was the epicenter of medieval medicine in Europe. Salerno was famous for having one of the world's first universities with a medical school and, while women were generally denied an education during this time, its faculty and student body included both men and women. In fact, during this time, many women were trained as physicians and also taught at the medical schools. It's faculty and student body included both men and women.Trotula was a physician and an instructor at the School of Salerno.

Trotula, sometimes called Trota, was born in the eleventh century, perhaps around 1097 AD; sadly, very little is known of her life.  The medical heroes of the day were still Hippocrates and Galen, even though both had died over eight hundred years before. Doctors followed and taught the teachings of these physicians, and virtually never researched on their own. 

Trotula was one of the most famous physicians of the time and her interest was  in managing the diseases and health problems of women. She is considered the world's first gynecologist. A skilled diagnostician, she  wrote on a wide variety of topics, including conception, menstruation, pregnancy, cesarean sections and childbirth..  Her work on gynecology was so practical that it was used for hundreds of years. In the fables and stories of Northern Europe she became the fictional character called "Dame Trot."

Tortula  believed that women should not suffer unrelenting pain during childbirth. During childbirth, she advocated the use of opiates produced by plants to dull the pain of labor. This contradicted Christian beliefs that a woman should suffer the pain of childbirth, because of the sin of Eve. Women were seen as weak, inferior and more susceptible to disease. For this reason, Trotula believed that women have special medical needs that can only be investigated and treated by a woman. She also felt that her patients should be physically comfortable, she recommended warm herbal baths, special diets, and plenty of rest to speed the healing process.

Sadly, the opportunities  allowed to women at Salerno in the 11th century were not to last for  Salerno was sacked by Henry VI in 1194, and, unfortunately, the medical school never fully recovered its prestige. Women were once again denied access to education, and those with practical healing skills and herbal knowledge were persecuted as witches. In fact, Tortola's own books were scattered and lost as hostility towards women as teachers and healers led to her very existence being denied and her works being assigned to male authors!

1 comment:

  1. A new lesson as always Mary....what CRAP! Tortola's story should be told and told again. One more name for me to write down for future research when I find a moment. Merry Mabon my fried. Hope the weather is treating you warmly...