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Women Position in Medicine History and Their Role Expansion of the Islamic Medicine/Elaheh Bagheri

Thursday 14 October 2010, by admin

Feminist school :The 5th International Congress of the International Society for the History of Islamic Medicine in Turkey was the host of many scholars of this field from different countries . one of the attendance was Elaheh Bagheri the following article was presented on a poster . the congress was held from 25th to 28th of October in Istanbul and Elaheh Bagheri’s Poster with the title of "Women position in medicine history and Their role expansion of the Islamic medicine" won the first grade . the poster can be seen underneath of her article .


Medicine is one of the social fields which women are active & outstanding on this graund and impact many of historical events some civilization – history researches said, medicine was one of the fields that women initially worked because of some reasons. Then had the first place in medicine plants & recognizing the disease.
However, hundred years later they arrived in more technical fields that were belonged to men, but never abandoned from accessible of women
May be the most important branch of medicine were pregnancy & birth. It was exchusive to women for hundreds of years. That’s why midwifery was always for them.
In the article, it’s attempted to introduce Islamic medicine and the aspects briefly, then study the Islamic women works & their role on Islamic medicine, health & cure. Meanwhile names & titles of medicine women in Islamic social will be reviewed. Conclusion is the role of women in Islamic medicine.

Key words: Islamic medicine, medical practice, women


In 19th entury, training & learning were possible for women in every levels. It was a great success for them. Also .they could go to university at the end of 19th entury. “Edinburgh†student revolt was one of the oppositions for admitting some women in Medicine University.
The first female intern figure of “Edward Pilet†hospital was burnt by male medical students in France. Iran was the some. There were lots of bad stories about female students .It was prevented dramatically for working female doctors, midwives & nurses.

History of Islamic Medicine:

Islamic medicine is one of the best &most famous elements of slamic civilization; and muslems were glowing very much. Not only Muslim doctor’s works were teaching in medival era in west. They were respected by west in renaissance& in the 11th century A.H / the 17th century A.D.Islamic medicine was a mixture of Greece doctors Boqrat & jalinous with Iranian & Indian practical medicine. There were lots of female doctors. Most of them were midwives or ginacologists. They called midwives “Mamache†.midwives helped divorced or widow pregnants for healthy abortion.

Pioneer physicians:

The first doctors in history were women.Berifo had written: ‘’ women’s relationship with agricultural affairs made them expert in phytology. They were familiar with plants properties, in this way they became the first doctors in history’’ He keep on talking that the medical practice originally means "knowledge" or wisdom of wise women. Wildorant believes that for the first time, women practice medicine in the primitive societies. "Because women had dealing to the land, they acquire more information about plants & herbs & have could to advance the science of medicine & distinguished it from witchcraft diviner. From the past periods, women have always taken care of patients. When the primitive men consult a man physician & religious leader that women physician couldn’t cure them…"

It seems that interest of women to medical practice topic was not only for nursing of men & obstetrics but it was arising from their acquaintance to medicinal herbs. Their acquaintance to the medicinal herbs caused them to didn’t consider in this profession, seriously. Therefore the titles & names sometimes used to them that although are unbecoming apparently for of today women, but it shows their activity in medicine. In Islamic medicine that always men have higher status than women like all the fields, by men physicians’ side, we see a nurse & midwife. It is said that it is sign of bounds between men & women & to separate womanly & manly medical practice. In the past times, some of the women physicians divided all the drugs & foods to four classes – warm, cold, moist & dry- & said the diseases that affected by typhoid fever are warm diseases & the patient should eat watermelon. The patient that affected by angina or has wound in throat is affected by a warm disease & should be cured by warm foodstuffs. If she /he cause to eat chicken soup, it should be eaten hen soup not cock because cock soup is cold. Thus candy is warm, hard sugar is cold & peppermint water is warm. So they were remedy their diseases. When needed, if they were forced to consult a physician & gotten them drugs, after few days they sorters with Koran & if it was bad, they didn’t use these drugs. In many cases the patients were cured by traditional recommendations & their religious tenets.

Women physicians:

Women social prestige has been always performed as general basis. But in various historical periods, method of this value has been changed. In superstitions part, it is seen changes in women thoughts & beliefs. One of the ages that superstitions permeated to our country & specially in science of medicine in spread rate, was Turkish tribes of middle Asia onslaught period & Mongol onslaught. Of course the principles of Mongol beliefs are unclear before onslaught to Iran. We understand from the sources that their major religion was set of practice of magic & summon the spirits of the dead that Shamans are executives. Shamans were kind of spiritual counselor that were propagative superstitions & proceeded to practice of magic. In any case, we can’t give an example the women in the sources like the men who are famous in this field or if we want to do this, they are few. Therefore the medicine job is not men only but women physicians were active in this area. There were rural & tribal physicians, old women & women who were acquainted with medicine specially obstetrics that they were called midwife in their poems.

Zeynab: is one of the most primitive & famous women physicians. She is from Bani ourd tribe that was famous for ophthalmology. There is a story about remedy of eye.

Rafideh: a woman from Oslam tribe that has craft in performing a surgery. In Khandagh battle, the Mohammad ordered her to heal the battle wounded. Her daughter had good information about remedy of women.

Fatemeh: she was Marvan Hakam′s nanny & Ebrahim Adi′s grandmother. In revolutionaries attack to Osman′s house, Afan was wounded & Fatemeh operated his neck & saved him from dead.

Iranian women physicians

One of the Iranian dexterous women physicians that introduced as lady doctor of Shah Abbas′s harem is Molana Zeyn Yazdi′s daughter & Enayatollah Yazdi′s wife. She is famous physician in shah Abbas age was remedy shah Abbas′s harem women. But unfortunately her name is unclear. In other periods, there were women who practice medicine but because of unfavorable environs, there aren’t their names in the sources. I only point to the first Iranian woman ophthalmologist:
Dr. Kahal: she was the first ophthalmologist & published magazine about women under the title of Knowledge. She was Yaghoub Jadid al Islam Hamedani′s daughter. In some of the magazines, it was printed notices that Dr, Kahal is present in the office everyday exept on Fridays for remedy of eye.


Although women, from the beginning until now, are always responsible for immunization of their family against sickness & although the first physicians were women, but whereas women have always adjudged to stay at home & the eastern societies have taken away the women′s thinking & women become isolated, so they couldn’t to acquire their proper position in the history.

In the course of time, science of medicine of women wasn’t remain like the ancient & transfer their new experiences from generation to generation, but entrance of diviners & religion leaders to this field & deprived of women to acquisition of knowledge & science caused to experiences of various nations that were transferred from via books, were specified only to men & women depend upon to their traditional experiences merely. These experiences, in the course of time, with attack of various peoples to Iran combined mixture of superstitions & medical practical experiences.

It is hoped that in the future we can observe presence of women in the various fields like as cultural, social, political &… areas. Perhaps destiny of women differ from generation to generation & it is hoped that we able to weak inequalities of the society by continual efforts & insist on womanly virtues.


1. Tajbakhsh, Hassan, History of Iran Hospitals (from the beginning to now), Humanity Sciences & Cultural studies Institutes, Tehran, 1379

2. Durant, Will, History of Civilization, part 1, Ahmad Aram, Eghbal publication, Tehran, 1358

3. Rid, Olin, Human in primitive time, Mahmmoud Enayat, Hashemi publication,1363

4. Najmabadi, Mahmmoud, History of Medicine in Iran after Islam (from the appearance of Islam to Mongol era), Vol 2, Tehran publication, Tehran,1366

Source in Persian:http://www.feministschool.com/spip.php?article6037

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