In the period known as the “Old Kingdom” in Ancient Egypt, from 2600-2100 BC, all professions were open to men and women, including the clergy, business, and medicine. In fact, records show that there were more than 100 prominent female physicians in Ancient Egypt, with Peseshet as their director. She was known as “lady overseer of the female physicians” – although it is not established that Lady Peseshet was a doctor herself and even if she was she was not the first known female physician. That title goes to someone who practiced medicine almost 100 years earlier: the world’s first known female doctor was Merit-Ptah (2700 BC).
As with mathematics and astronomy, medicine was well-developed in Ancient Egypt, with physicians specializing in various medical fields, including eye care and dentistry. Midwifery was also a practiced profession.
World’s most famous midwife
Trotula of Salerno (?-1097) was a physician, midwife, teacher, and author. Trotula‘s treatise on gynecology, De Passionibus Mulierum Curandorum (The Diseases of Women) was used in medical schools until the 16th century.
Her topics included the need for cleanliness, a balanced diet, and regular exercise, warned of the effects of emotional stress, and discussed birth control, problems of infertility, male infertility, sewing (and avoiding) tears suffered in childbirth, repositioning a baby during a breech birth, and the problems of sex and celibacy. She even told how a woman might pretend to be a virgin.
Recommended reading: Ancient Egyptian Medicine