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“There is no tongue that moves”


they were not expendable. Perhaps that is why so many male

practitioners found them so very threatening” (2008: 84). It is

plausible that these women played a central role in the

“delivery of nursing, medical, pharmaceutical, and surgical

services throughout the city” (Harkness, 2008: 56), and were

therefore crucial to the health of most early modern Londoners.

Pelling and Wester’s observation that from 1581 to 1600 “the

College of Physicians prosecuted 21 women practitioners,

leaving 39 to be accounted for” (1979: 183) reveals the

political dominance of the patriarchal College of Physicians in

the field of medicine, and the high risk of indictment faced by

female practitioners. Elsewhere, Pelling has pointed out that

the members of the College of Physicians endeavored to clearly

distinguish themselves from other practitioners,


in particular

targeting those literate women healers “who competed for the

same urban clientele as that of the university-trained doctors”

(Ehrenreich, 1973: 54).


These women healers were caricatured,



and demonized as practicing witchcraft when they seemed to

be using magic in their therapies. Needless to say, the

accusation that women healers were witches led to the most

extreme forms of suppression and their exclusion from medical

history and the medical professions. “Women healers in

particular were vulnerable to accusations of witchcraft”


See Margaret Pelling, 2003. For Pelling, the College of the Physicians was

seen by the Londeners as a ‘potential resource in the management of their

own affairs’ (2003: 84).


Here we may think of Hermione’s success in persuading Polixenes to say

longer, and Leontes’s concealed and displaced envy of her communicative

skills, as if he and she had been in competition.


Thomas Gale ridiculed, to quote from Pelling and Webster, “three score

women, that occupieth the arte of phisick and chirurgerye. These women,

some of them be called wise women, or holy and good women, some of

them be called witches, and useth to call upon certaine spirits, and some of

them useth plain Bawderie, and telleth gentlewomen that cannot bear

children how they may have children” (1979: 187).