In approximately 350 BCE, a woman named Agnodice desired to learn medicine. She disguised herself as a man and studied with the famous physician Herophilos, becoming the first professional female gynecologist.

She was denounced by male rival doctors, who said that she corrupted and seduced her patients, making them not want their services. She revealed her gender, clearing herself of charges of rape. Her female patients came to her defense, saying they would die with her if she were executed for practicing medicine.

Athenian law was changed, allowing women to study and practice medicine, and Agnodice was allowed to continue her medical work and to continue wearing men's clothing.

It is debatable whether Agnodice is real or mythical. The sole source of her story is Hyginus, a Latin author of the first century CE.

Higinus left us to know the following tale, which has been invoked as a classical precedent within the History of Medicine seeking to defend the women right to study medicine.

A maiden named Agnodice wanted to learn medicine, a forbidden profession for women, and to do this she decided to cut her hair, donned the clothes of a man and became a student of Herophilos. When her studies concluded, she heard a woman crying out in the throes of labor so she went to her assistance.
The woman, thinking she was a man, refused her help; but Agnodice lifted up her clothes and revealed herself to be a woman and was thus able to treat her patient.
When the male doctors found that their services were not wanted by women, they began to accuse Agnodice, saying she had seduced the women, and accused them of feigning illness to get visits from Agnodice.

Eventually she was brought before the law court, and the men tryed to condemn Agnodice, but she once again lifted her tunic to show that she was indeed a woman. The male doctors began to accuse her all the more vehemently for breaking the law forbidding women to study medicine. At this point the wives of the leading men arrived saying `you men are not spouses but enemies since you are condemning a woman who gave health for us'. Then the Athenians emended the law so that freeborn women could hereafter study medicine.

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