I wish all the women a very happy International Women’s Day! This year, I would like to talk about an interesting set of stories that discuss the mythical endeavors of women in the field of medicine.
But before I head to the myths/tales, the goal of this blog is to highlight the struggle of finding female role models in science that keep you motivated and, perhaps in some cases openly give candid advice.
The late 18th century saw lots of changes in the gender dynamics and, the women making progress in their careers craved for women role models.
Despite this, the only names that initially emerged were specks of imagination from the early civilizations!
This first story that emerged was of an Egyptian icon – Merit-Ptah.
Merit-Ptah arguably considered as the first icon of a female role model in the field of science was an Egyptian physician according to the interpretation of Dr. Mead-Hurd. Dr. Mead-Hurd had inferred this story from a tomb tablet in the tomb of a priest. Only later was it discovered that the tablet perhaps referred to Peseshet who was an overseer of female healers. Her story although not true perhaps reflected on the eagerness of women to have female role models in science.
Following this, an interesting tale of an Athenian woman from the 4th Century BC appeared. Agnodice (which means ‘pure before justice’) a daughter of an influential father, chose to cut off her hair and dress like a man to go to medical school in Alexandria. It is widely believed that she was trained under Herophilus, and on her return started assisting women in birthing.
Her growing popularity did not fare well with the local male doctors who at that time were not aware that she was a woman and presumed that she flirted with the women. The rumor spread quickly, and a jury was set for a trial, it was during this trial that her gender was revealed. Although initially she was sentenced to death, her loyal patients protested – allowing her release.
In all honesty, humans at the deepest levels connect the most with compelling stories – hence perhaps these stories although the creation of imagination inspired many women to aim for the highest!
These stories although not completely relevant for a modern scenario, remind us about how far we have come from the first few steps while re-emphasizing the role that role models play for other pioneers!