Saturday, January 29, 2011
(Taken from "Uppity Women of Ancient Times" by Vicki Leon)
Athens was a bore for well bred ladies in the fourth century B.C. Only women who were foreigners, courtesans, or oddball aristocrats who didn't care about convention got to mingle. But Agnodice figured out a way to buck convention - she put on men's clothing to become a doctor, attending medical lectures and specializing in gynecology. She understood women's qualms about being examined by a male doctor and figured she could corner the business when she became a doctor. Sure enough, it worked - but it made the other doctors jealous of her popularity with their clients. So they dragged her into court on a morals charge. To prove she wasn't a man, Agnodice had to expose herself to the judges - not to be thwarted, the jealous doctors then charged her with practicing a profession limited to men. Agnodice had to plead guilty to that charge but she was acquitted. Athenians finally changed the law, opening the door to other female physicians.