Practicing between earth and heaven: women healers in seventeenth-century Bologna

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In the highly stratified medical system of seventeenth-century Bologna, women healers occupied a low-rank position. Officially women could practice medicine only as midwives or as holders of permits for the sale of patent medicines. Women were a relatively marginal group even within unauthorized medical practice. Of the criminal proceedings against unlicensed healers only 12% were directed against women. In contrast, women were prominent in religious healing--as shown by the record of healing miracles attributed to female saints, and the importance of female convents as centers of supernatural healing. The different status of women in each case might be related to the different role of the body in lay and religious medical practices. While contact with the <<holy bodies>> of the saints was absolutely central in religious healing, <<healing with the body>> was considered a mark of inferiority in lay medical practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-143
Number of pages25
JournalDynamis (Granada, Spain)
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History and Philosophy of Science


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