Throughout history, women have played a crucial role in every aspect of life. March 8th is International Women’s Day and it is a day to show how important women are in the world. To celebrate and honor women, we’d like to pay homage to women who have changed our health for the better. The women in this article faced hardships and had to overcome adversity, but their perseverance led to medical accomplishments that allow us to live healthy lives.
Trota of Salerno (11th Century):
According to historians, Trota of Salerno was a medical practitioner, who may have been behind the Trotula, a trio of medical texts. These texts dealt with fertility, bladder control, and menstruation, in addition to cosmetic tips and skin condition remedies. Whether she single-handedly wrote the texts is unsure, but her name is synonymous with health in medieval times.
Mary Seacole (1805-1881):
This woman was truly a pillar of inspiration. Born in a Jamaica to a Jamaican mother and Scottish father, she faced racial and sexist discrimination throughout her career in medicine. She didn’t let such things faze her. She travelled to London to offer nursing services during the Crimean War, but was turned away by Florence Nightingale’s crew. What did she do? Mary went to the front lines and offered medical services to both sides of the fight. Later in her life, she published a best-selling memoir and in 2004 she was voted the greatest British black person in history.
Lydia Pinkham (1819-1883):
Lydia Pinkham is one of the most famous herbalists to ever live. She was forward thinking when she developed a commercially successful herbal “women’s tonic” that helped relieve menopausal and menstrual pain. The herbs she used for her concoction included fenugreek, black cohosh, unicorn root, life root, and pleurisy root, all of which are still used today.
Clara Barton (1821-1912):
Clara Barton is famously known for founding the American Red Cross, which has become an essential player for providing aid to natural disasters. She also helped care for soldiers in the Civil War, nursed wounded soldiers back to health, and helped search for missing soldiers, establishing the Bureau of Records of Missing Men of the Armies of the United States.
Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler (1831-1895):
In 1864, Dr. Crumpler became the first African-American woman to earn a medical degree. After working with clinics and conducting research to help improve the health of black communities, she dedicated the rest of her life to providing medical treatment to newly freed African-Americans in the South after the Civil War.
Yoshioka Yayoi (1871-1959):
Yoshioka wasn’t the only woman in history to start a medical institution to spite sexism. Elizabeth Garret Anderson (1836-1917), who found it difficult to be entered in the medical register, started her own hospital as well. Yoshioka started the Tokyo Women’s Medical University, which opened its doors in 1900. She was also a suffragist and worked to advance female education throughout her life.
Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958):
There was one person missing from accepting the Nobel Prize for discovering the shape of our genetic material (the double-helix model of DNA), and that name is Rosalind Franklin. James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins received the award instead. Franklin died prematurely, but her research with Wilkins was the basis for the discovery. She actually developed how to diffract x-rays to capture living organisms, which made examining DNA fibers a lot easier. Wilkins showed these X-ray photos of DNA to his colleagues without Franklin’s permission. Franklin, however, was eventually recognized as an essential investigator in the discovery.