Agnodice - First Woman GynecologistWednesday, March 04, 2009
Born in 300 BC in ancient Greece, Agnodice wanted to practice medicine in an era when women were legally prohibited from the healing arts. According to legend, Agnodice was a noblewoman born with a passion for medicine. The only way she could achieve her dream was to cut her hair and wear men's clothing. Encouraged by her father, she Dressed thusly and soon become an avid student of the famous Alexandrian physician, Herophilus where she earned the highest marks.
After she finished her studies, as she walked the streets of Athens, she heard the screams of a woman in the throes of labor. Agnodice rushed to assist her. The woman, believing Agnodice to be a man, refused to allow Agnodice to touch her. Desperate to convince her otherwise, Agnodice lifted up her clothes and revealed that she was a woman. The woman allowed her to deliver her baby. Women everywhere soon flocked to her. To evade the authorities, she dressed as a man, not only during hr studies but also when she practiced.
When her male colleagues discovered that requests for their services were dwindling, while Agnodice's was increasing, they accused Agnodice of seducing and raping the women patients.
She was subsequently arrested and charged. At her trial, the leading men of Athens condemned her. To save herself from the death penalty, Agnodice revealed she was really a woman. A crowd of her patients declared in front of the temple that if she were executed, they would die with her. The wives of the judges argued, "You are not spouses, but enemies since you are condemning her who discovered health for us."
Under the pressure by the crowd, the judges acquitted Agnodice and allowed her to continue practicing medicine.
Agnodice continued to work mostly with women and is credited with being one of the first women gynecologists in history.
Whether or not the legend of Agnodice is true, it is a story which the world of medicine has long cherished.