Winner of the Margaret W. Rossiter History of Women in Science Prize
A new history uncovers the crucial role women played in the great transformations of medical science and health care that accompanied the Italian Renaissance.
In Renaissance Italy women played a more central role in providing health care than historians have thus far acknowledged. Women from all walks of life—from household caregivers and nurses to nuns working as apothecaries—drove the Italian medical economy. In convent pharmacies, pox hospitals, girls’ shelters, and homes, women were practitioners and purveyors of knowledge about health and healing, making significant contributions to early modern medicine.
Sharon Strocchia offers a wealth of new evidence about how illness was diagnosed and treated, whether by noblewomen living at court or poor nurses living in hospitals. She finds that women expanded on their roles as health care providers by participating in empirical work and the development of scientific knowledge. Nuns, in particular, were among the most prominent manufacturers and vendors of pharmaceutical products. Their experiments with materials and techniques added greatly to the era’s understanding of medical care. Thanks to their excellence in medicine urban Italian women had greater access to commerce than perhaps any other women in Europe.
Forgotten Healers provides a more accurate picture of the pursuit of health in Renaissance Italy. More broadly, by emphasizing that the frontlines of medical care are often found in the household and other spaces thought of as female, Strocchia encourages us to rethink the history of medicine.
This superbly researched and elegantly written study of women’s roles in the pursuit of health in late Renaissance Italy puts women back in the center of medical knowledge and medical practices during a major turning point in European history.
Beautifully illuminates the many ways in which women acted as medical agents and became medical artisans in Renaissance Florence and beyond. Strocchia’s deeply researched study reveals how Medici women, controversial saintly healers, nun apothecaries, and hospital nurses in an age of syphilis all participated in a political economy of family, faith, health, and charity. Essential reading for anyone interested in gender and medicine in the early modern era.
Impeccably researched and highly readable, Forgotten Healers is the most comprehensive study of early modern women’s involvement in medicine to date. A remarkable book with fresh perspectives that significantly advances our understanding of the distinctive ways of learning and knowing that characterized the early modern age.
Makes a vital contribution to the history of medicine, gender studies, and Renaissance studies. With plentiful excursuses throughout that reward curiosity with delightful explanations, and lucid and engaging prose, Strocchia showcases the various roles carried out by women in the provision of health care in early modern Italy.
Forgotten Healers defines medical work to include the activities of people beyond professional physicians and surgeons. This broader understanding of early modern medical knowledge and practice underwrites Strocchia’s powerful rethinking of early modern medicine, making women and women’s contributions not only integral but central.
One of the best books on the Italian Renaissance in years—at once insightful, illuminating, wide-ranging, and comprehensive…It is also a pleasure to read.
A richly illustrated description of the various ways in which women were involved in medical care within Renaissance Italy…It not only builds upon and expands existing bodies of work in often fascinating ways but also suggests many new directions for research on which future scholars can—and no doubt will—build.
Strocchia gives voice to noblewomen, nuns, and nurses engaged in medicine and pharmacy, reconstructing their networks of knowledge and business…A great contribution for all scholars engaging with early modern healing practices and represents a valuable enrichment of our perception of this field.
A uniquely intimate tactile experience of the day-to-day business of healing and healthcare in Renaissance Italy. Strocchia’s painstaking and creative archival reconstructions of women healers in elite households, convents, and pox hospitals shows the extent to which women were immersed in and helped shape the medical marketplace as suppliers, producers, innovators, and consumers within a changing scientific and technological landscape.
Argues convincingly for female medical spaces as sites of innovation…Rich and revealing in its detail and astute in its analysis, this book is essential reading for anyone with an interest in early modern social, medical, and gender history.
Richly detailed and wide-ranging…Essential reading for [those] who are interested in medical care in early modern cities, the role of women as healers in early modern Italy, and the convent as a site of knowledge and sociability in urban environments.
Excellent…Reveal[s] the pervasive presence and agency of women in health care throughout late Renaissance Florence…A fascinating and extremely readable account of women in early modern health care, which also stands as testament to what a rich and cohesive field the study of women and health care has now become.
Based on extensive archival research and a wide reading of secondary literature, this clearly written book demonstrates that women played a large role in Italian Renaissance health care.
An expansive history that integrates gender, economics, and health…This book helps us to see and hear the work of women as they engaged in health care in late Renaissance Italy.
An influential, insightful, and, indeed, formidable book that dispels one more time the notion that women, educated or not, were marginal to the medical, economic, social, and political economy of their time. Forgotten Healers is not simply a recuperation of women’s various work, mostly unpaid, in convents and hospitals in Renaissance Tuscany but a powerful reconstruction…of the many ways women—noblewomen, nuns, laywomen, and orphans—were fully functional members of the social fabric of their time.
- 2021, Winner of the Margaret W. Rossiter History of Women in Science Prize
- 2021, Winner of the Phyllis Goodhart Gordan Book Prize
- 2020, Winner of the Helen and Howard R. Marraro Prize
- 352 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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