Examining Women’s Roles in the Publication of Medical Texts During The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries
Many obstacles prevented women from fully participating in medical professions throughout Early Modern England. Women could not learn about medicine at formal institutes, including Oxford and Cambridge, since contemporary scholars believed that women were incapable of the abstract thinking necessary to practice the science. Throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Royal College of Physicians prosecuted female medical practitioners for what they deemed to be unsanctioned activity in the medical field. Writing and publishing medical texts was also a difficult profession for women to pursue. Although women’s ability to produce documents of this nature improved for a time as a consequence of the decrease in print censorship following the English Civil War (1642-1651), male-authored books published on the subject continued to question their knowledge publicly.
Despite these numerous obstacles, females did participate in medical publications. Women evaded the Royal College of Physicians’ sanctions and participated in the world of medical publications through disclosing their treatments to male-physician authors, publishing almanacs, and using metaphors to conceal the medical advice in their texts. In three sections, this article highlights various ways women were involved in the publication of medical texts. The first component will examine the gender dynamics of medical publishing, focusing on how male authors utilized women’s knowledge to help sell their own texts. The second two sections examine how women were involved in medical literature in their own right and the strategies they employed to participate in medicine while simultaneously avoiding public scrutiny.
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