Peseshe

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Peseshe

Flourished Circa 2500-2350 b.c.e .

Physician

Sources

Female Doctors . During the Old Kingdom (circa 2675-2130 b.c.e.) women occupied some specialized positions and even achieved supervisory status in a few cases. Women worked as singers, musicians, dancers, weavers, midwives, priestesses, and scribes. Hundreds of women, however, became physicians and some even attained positions of authority. This fact does not seem strange, as the patron god for physicians was Sekmet, a vengeful lioness (a woman with the head of a lion) deity who could send or remove disease and was often depicted with a mirror upon her head. Physicians were not only responsible for the physical healing, such as through surgery, but they also combined religion and magic, natural healing, and diet in their medical plan.

Supervisor . One such woman, probably from a wealthy family, was Peseshet, a physician who attained the title of “Overseer of the Doctors,” supervising the activities of many female doctors. Her specific duties are lost to modern scholars, although she seems to have been responsible both for medical care and funeral rites as well as possibly training midwives. It is unclear as to who their clients were—women only or the sick of both genders.

Sources

W.B. Harer Jr. and Z. el-Dawakhly, “Peseshet—The First Female Physician,” Obstetrics & Gynecology, 74 (December 1989): 960-961.

Théophile Obenga, “Lady Peseshet: The First Woman Doctor in World History,” Era of Masses, 1 (February 1997), <http://www.pond.com/~zizwe/ng/ngPeseshet.htm>.

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