A Woman to Know: Trotula

All women revealed their thoughts more readily to her than to any man, and told her their natures. — Placides and Timeus

(14th century depiction of Trotula, via Wikimedia Commons)

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In the middle ages, doctors didn't know much about women's bodies. They thought childbirth *should* be excruciatingly painful (to remind women of Eve's biting the apple); they believed illness was punishment for lesbian sorcery; and they told female patients to stop "making up" diseases.

Enter Trotula, one of the most important doctors in 11th century Europe. Trotula rose to prominence at the Medical School of Salerno, Italy, the only medical school in Europe to admit female students. In her coursework, Trotula advocated for sedation during childbirth (thank GOD for Trotula) and introduced such revolutionary ideas as hey, maybe all female pain isn't punishment for past sin and hey, maybe women can practice medicine, too. She also wrote a how-to for cosmetology, including tips on remove undereye circles and lengthen eyelashes.

Her ideas are gathered in three medical volumes, The Trotula: The Diseases of Women. Her books were the *only* contemporary texts written to educate men on the female body, and today, The Trotula remains a blueprint for women's healthcare.

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