beards, birth, death, doctors, Hippocrates, love, menstruation, pregnancy, womb

Gendered flesh, prolapse and sex change: the case of Phaethousa

‘Her body was masculinized (τό τε σῶμα ἠνδρώθη)’. This is one aspect of the description of Phaethousa of Abdera, who features in one of the Hippocratic ‘case histories’ from probably the fourth century BC. When her husband leaves, or goes into exile, this previously fecund woman stops menstruating and experiences a range of symptoms, including… Continue reading Gendered flesh, prolapse and sex change: the case of Phaethousa

beards, gender, midwives, womb

Agnodice: down and dirty?

The gestation of a book is an odd thing... So there I was watching a superb drag burlesque act, The Down and Dirty Show, featuring The Gentleman King and Foxy Tann, the scheduled entertainment at the 2011 Berkshire Conference for Women Historians. And the sky opened. Sometimes moments of insight come when you least expect… Continue reading Agnodice: down and dirty?

beards

Julia Pastrana, ‘bearded lady’

In February 2013 there was a big day for the ‘bearded lady’: Julia Pastrana’s body was repatriated to her native Mexico and buried, her coffin covered with white roses. Julia, ‘the world’s ugliest woman’, suffered from excessive hair growth on her face. She was exhibited at freak shows by her impresario husband in the 1850s and,… Continue reading Julia Pastrana, ‘bearded lady’

beards, menstruation, womb

One-sex and two-sex bodies?

Back in 2013, I published a book about the claim that there was a clear division in the history of Western Europe between two models of the body: ‘one-sex’ and ‘two-sex’. In the first model, men and women were seen as having exactly the same genital bits and pieces, but with men’s on the outside… Continue reading One-sex and two-sex bodies?