de Almania, Jacqueline Felicia (fl. 1322)

views updated

de Almania, Jacqueline Felicia (fl. 1322)

Parisian doctor. Name variations: Jacoba Felicie de Almania; Jacqueline Felicie de Almania; Jacoba d'Alamanie. Flourished in 1322 in Paris.

Jacqueline de Almania is one of the most well known of medieval women doctors. A French noblewoman, she practiced medicine in Paris and became involved in a long court battle over her right to practice. In 1322, the faculty of the medical school in Paris issued a ban on all physicians working without a license (which the masters of the school asserted could only be properly granted by their establishment). This move was designed to protect the interests of Paris' university-trained physicians, who were more scarce, more expensive, and often less knowledgeable than midwives and healers, and thus less sought after by the ill. De Almania was herself a popular healer, which may be why the masters prosecuted her so vigorously. She was arrested, fined, and excommunicated for her violation of the ban.

Unwilling to honor the ban and lose her livelihood, she prepared a spirited and well-argued defense of her medical capabilities, and she arranged for the testimony of eight former patients who attested that her superb skills had cured them even when male doctors had given up hope of their recovery. De Almania argued her case from several vantage points. First, she agreed with the law banning unlearned people from the healing trades but said such a law did not exclude experienced, wise women like herself. She proposed that women were necessary in the field of medicine to help other women, who were too modest to be examined by a male physician. Lastly, de Almania submitted that she was a fair and honest doctor, for she did not charge patients until after they were cured, and that she remained with patients for the duration of their recovery rather than simply prescribing cures and departing.

After several weeks of hearings, the court decided in favor of the university faculty. The magistrate, undoubtedly aware of the immense political clout the faculty held in the city, agreed that medical school was an absolute prerequisite to the practice of medicine. The court upheld the fine against Jacqueline de Almania and refused to lift the ban of excommunication. After the decision, de Almania disappears from the court documents, so it is uncertain whether she complied with the ban, left the city, or kept practicing her trade illegally.


Amt, Emilie. Women's Lives in Medieval Europe. NY: Routledge, 1993.

LaBarge, Margaret W. Women in Medieval Life. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1986.

Laura York , Riverside, California