Excerpt 1 from The Trotula [Heckel]

[From Sex, Society and Medieval Women by N. M. Heckel]


The opening of Medieval Woman's Guide to Health (The Middle English Trotula):

For as moche as ther ben manye women that hauen many diuers maladies and sekenesses nygh to þe deth and thei also ben shamefull to schewen and to tellen her greuaunces unto eny wyght, therefore I schal sumdele wright to herre maladies remedye, praying to God ful of grace to sende me grace truly to write to þe plesaunce of God & to all womannes helpyng. For charite axeth this: that euery man schuld trauaille for helpyng of his brotheryn & his susteryn after þe grace of God þat he hathe vnderfongyn. And thowgh women have diuers evelles & many greet greuaunces mo than all men knowen of, as I seyd, hem schamen for drede of repreving in tymes comyng & of discuryng off vncurteys men þat loue women but for her lustes and for her foule lykyng. And yf women be in dissese, suche men haue hem in despyte & thenke nought how moche dysese women haue or þan they haue brought hem into þis world. And therfore, in helping of women I wyl wright of women prevy sekenes the helpyng, and that oon woman may helpe another in her sykenesse & nought diskuren her previtees to suche vncurteys men.

[Because there are many women who have numerous diverse illnesses -- some of them almost fatal -- and because they are also ashamed to reveal and tell their distress to any man, I therefore shall write somewhat to cure their illnesses, praying to merciful God to send me grace to write truly to His satisfaction and to the assistance of all women. For charity calls for this: that everyone should work to help his brothers and sisters according to the grace that he has received of God. And although women have various maladies and more terrible sicknesses than any man knows, as I said, they are ashamed for fear of reproof in times to come and of exposure by discourteous men who love women only for physical pleasure and for evil gratification. And if women are sick, such men despise them and fail to realize how much sickness women have before they bring them into this world. And so, to assist women, I intend to write of how to help their secret maladies so that one woman may aid another in her illness and not divulge her secrets to such discourteous men.] (Rowland, 58-59


Medieval Woman's Guide to Health: The First English Gynecological Handbook. Ed. and trans. Beryl Rowland. Kent, OH: The Kent State University Press, 1981.

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