Girl Power

Agnodice (in ancient Greek, Aγνοδίκη) came from a wealthy family in ancient Athens. She wanted to be a doctor because she saw so many women suffering and even dying from childbirth. But Athenian law gave the death penalty to a woman who dared to be a doctor.

She cut off her hair and dressed as a man, then went to Egypt to study medicine. When she returned to Athens, she continued to pretend to be a man so she could help the women of Athens.

One day, she heard a woman crying in pain during a difficult childbirth. She went to help, but the woman refused, not wanting to be treated by a man. Agnodice revealed that she wasn’t a man, the woman accepted her help, and the treatment was successful.

Word spread among the women of Athens, who began to seek out Agnodice’s help. Before long the male doctors were put to shame. So they brought Agnodice to trial, accusing her (thinking she was a man) of actually seducing women, including their wives, who were only pretending to be sick so they could have sex with the doctor.

At the trial, Agnodice revealed that she was not a man but a woman, that she was not seducing their wives, that she was only helping them. They responded by insisting she be put to death for the crime of being a woman doctor. But by this time a large crowd of women had gathered, supporting Agnodice and pointing out that it was only because of her that so many of their children, and their wives, were still alive.

Truly shamed, they acquitted Agnodice. The law was changed.

2 responses to “Girl Power

  1. Thanks so much for this — Good story imparts wisdom.

    This is what my local paper offered this morning about women
    http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/education/husky-guide-on-cheerleading-tryouts-goes-global/ Different message.

  2. Reminds me of the catch-22 that affected Afghani women under Taliban rule (and probably still does in some places). Of course, there’s been little sign of shame on the part of the Taliban.