Agnodice (300 B.C.)Friday, November 27, 2009
I was born in 300 BC in ancient Greece, and in today's world, you know me only as a legend. Did I exist? Or did I not? I shall leave it to you to decide. Here is my story:
I was a noblewoman who dreamed of becoming a healer. More than anything, I wanted to practice medicine in an era when women were legally prohibited from the healing arts. The only way I could achieve my dream was to cut my hair and wear men's clothing. Encouraged by my father, I dressed thusly and soon become an avid student of the famous Alexandrian physician, Herophilus where I earned the highest marks.
After I finished my studies, as I walked the streets of Athens, I heard the screams of a woman in the throes of labor. I rushed to assist her. The woman, believing me to be a man, refused to allow me to touch her. Desperate to convince her otherwise, I lifted up my clothes and revealed that I was a woman. She allowed me to deliver her baby. Women everywhere soon flocked to me. To evade the authorities, I dressed as a man, not only during my studies but also whenever I practiced.
When my male colleagues discovered that requests for their services were dwindling, while mine were increasing, they accused me of seducing and raping the women patients.
I was subsequently arrested and charged. At my trial, the leading men of Athens condemned me. To save myself from the death penalty, I revealed I was really a woman. A crowd of my patients declared in front of the temple that if I were executed, they would die with me. The wives of the judges argued, "You are not spouses, but enemies since you are condemning her who discovered health for us."
Under pressure by the crowd, the judges acquitted me and allowed me to continue practicing medicine.
I continued to work mostly with women and have been credited with being one of the first women gynecologists in history.
Whether or not the legend of my life is true, it is a story which the world of medicine has long cherished.