The trial of a 14th century female doctor

In November 1322, Jakoba (or Jacoba) Felicie stood trial in her native Paris for the crime of practicing medicine without official sanction. Over the course of the trial, it became clear that her work as a doctor had been excellent. But Dr. Felicie was stuck in an unfortunate catch-22. She could not legally work as a doctor without first getting professional training. And she could not get professional training because she was a woman. The ScienceZest blog tells her story.


    1. Beat me to it.  A Catch 22 would have been “You can’t practice medicine unless you have training… but you can’t get training unless you have practiced medicine.”

      WTF is going on with the quality at BB today?  Crappy posts abound.

    2. No, it’s just a different usage of the phrase. Let me explain. 

      The author of this post couldn’t use a Catch-22 properly unless they read the book. And they didn’t read the book.


      1. I hope you are being ironic!

        Again, not a Catch-22.  Here, a Catch-22 would be something like “in order to use “Catch-22” properly you must have read the book….but you may only use the book if you can use “Catch-22″ properly.”

  1. It’s a Catch-6, or 7, tops.

    Otherwise it’s an interesting story, although most of what I just read seems to be about the history of the story, rather than telling the story itself.

  2. In 1322 how could it really have mattered that much? How much sound medicine was there to learn back then?  And since she she seems to have mostly practiced gynecology and midwifery, what she learned from folk traditions was probably as good or better than what she could have learned from professional training.

    This all seems to be the result of sexism and had nothing to do with her competence.

      1. I’ve helped apply leeches to a patient’s face, thank you very much.  It’s modern medicine now.

        1. Just because you’re doing something in the modern day doesn’t make it modern medicine. Or at least that’s what the courts have repeatedly claimed in their refusal to overturn my sentence.

        2. Yes, leeches are quite helpful in draining blood from an area with damaged capillaries. Surgery can often restore bloodflow to an area without being able to restore bloodflow out of an area. A leech can draw excess blood from that area and allow the capillaries that carry blood away time to regenerate. Leeches cut through skin gently so there is no pain, they secrete anticoagulants so they don’t get clotted blood in their guts, and they have a few antibacterial secretions that prevent infection for both parties.

      2. I think part of the problem might have been that she wasn’t into the leeches at all. In the French Revolution they killed a lot of the doctors. Army surgeons and hospital nuns became the only medical authorities. The army guys said rinse wounds with plenty of water and change bandages frequently, amputate if that isn’t working. The nuns said keep people warm and clean, and let things run their course. The standard of medical care went way up at that point.

    1. She was more likely a general practitioner, as her patients were men and women. As for the question whether it mattered at all back then: YES it did. What a desaster if suddenly all the “wise women” weren’t allowed to treat patients. No male doctor wanted to examine female private parts.

  3. I had to Google it, given the spelling:  It’s a Hebrew girl’s name and it means ‘supplant’.

  4. Ok, ok! I’m most very quite sure dat she did not really mean das ‘Cat-shit 22’ but rather die utter won. “Cat-shit between a rocket and a hard place!” Eye-kah-rumba!

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