11th century, Salerno, Italia
Trotula was one of the most famous physicians of her time. Her work was devoted to alleviating the suffering of women.
Trotula taught at the school of Salerno, a famous university of the time, where both men and women were educated. There was a tradition in Italy of women having access to higher education up until the time of the Renaissance.
It is important to remember Trotula of Salerno because she was a medieval scientist, a woman working diligently as a medical doctor specifically on the diseases of women. It is important for any modern medicine woman to know about our female predecessors who were discredited. Witchcraft, herbalism and wise women work is often assumed to be non-scientific.
Trotula of Salerno is the author of Passionibus Mulierum Curandorum or The Diseases of Women. The book is a vast reference on health issues specifically related to women’s bodies and minds. Trotula speaks openly of menses, conception, pregnancy, childbirth, sexuality, birth control and also stress and its effect on the body. Most remedies prescribed are herbs, spices and oils
She wanted to educate male doctors about the female body because she believed such knowledge was generally lacking. She also discovered that men have a part to play in the infertility in women. A radical idea in those days.
By the 16th century, Trotula had become a folk heroine and her books were still standard works on women’s medicine. The Medieval Woman’s Guide to Health, the first English gynecological handbook, was based on the writings of Trotula. It is said that in Victorian England they began to shy away from this text and believe it had to have been written by a man because it was so overtly sexual.
In the book, The Strega and the Dreamer, the main character Eva, is referred to as a ‘daughter of the dame Trotula’. Eva doesn’t know who Trotula is but she discovers, in a difficult way, who this wisewoman predecessor is later in the novel.
~ Theresa C. Dintino
Sources for this blog:
Books by Trotula and based on the works of Trotula: