„Medycyna Nowożytna” T. 15, 2008, fasc.1-2

25.09.2015 | 12.02.2022

Jowita Jagla- Ph.D. art historian, University of Lodz

„Uterine toads” and „abdominal snakes” – medical motive in the votive representations.

In the 600th Anniversary Museum of Jasna Góra, there is a votive object in the shape of a toad, made in Vienna before the year 1675. The occult sign of the toad – magical animal of  remote symbolic origin – has various references in the realms of literature, fine arts, medicine and ethnography.

The toad enshrined in Częstochowa is one among multiple European votive objects, particularly German, offered for the intention of recovery from broadly defined gynaecological diseases, colic and abdominal pains. In the common symbolism, it was considered first and foremost as a representation of the uterus. This opinion directs us to the ancient medical literature, describing the uterus as an organ migrating in the woman’s body (this idea can be found among others in the works of Hippocrates and Plato).

Votive objects taking the form of the toad were made of various materials: wax, iron, silver, wood and clay. Votive toads were offered mainly by women wanting to become fertile, but also by men suffering from dysentery, typhus and diseases of hypogastrium. The votive toad could also be the symbol of a sinner, who turned into a toad in a magical manner, had to make a penitential pilgrimage.

Extremely original uterine votive objects, found only in the Southern Tyrol,  are so called “thorny balls” (in German language “Stachelkugel”), made of wax, silver and wood. Such thorny ball is the symbol of the uterus that moves inside the body with sharp thorns, stabbing the body and causing pain.

The toad from Częstochowa was given the face of a man; perhaps it represents the symbol of longed-for consolidation of the woman’s and man’s semen – the symbol of fulfilled dream of impregnation.

Barbara Różańska Gambal- students of history University of Wroclaw

Occurence of epidemic of genuine smallpox since antique form modern in the world

Variolae vera also known as natural or black is most dangerous manifestation of smallpox. It’s very lethal (30%-50%) and very contagious. Appearance of smallpox is connected with domestication of animals and breeding them abaut 6 thousands years ago. Epidemies of contagious diseases, including smallpox were very often on the world scale. For the first time smallpox appeared probably in Asia, them Africa, Europe and then both Americas and Australia.

Till XVII century people didn¢t distinguish particulars diseases. Since ancient times there are historical and archeological proofs confirming existence of this sickness.

Epidemies brought death, fear and panic. That¢s why they became popular topic in literature and art even over times.

Smallpox was thought of as inevitable disease which was killing one third of mankind.

Methods of curing it were various and more often taken from superstitions or religious beliefs than medical knowledge. In case of epidemy local authorities were taking  steps like: sacrifices, praying, quarantine, isolation of sic. Most effective method to fight smallpox was used in acient times on Asiatic continent in China and India. From there in XVIII century this method came  to western part of Europe and to America.

Artificially inserted smallpox virus immuned human organism. This method was dangerous thought because it could lead to death. Safe way of fighting this disease became possible at theend of XVIII century thanks to Edward Jenners invention. He proved  that it is possible to fight smallpox by vaccination using virus of this disease taken from animals which was safe to humans. In next 200 years in whole world intoduced obligatory vaccinations for smallpox. Last cases of this disease were in 1953-1963 in Europe, 1972 in USA, 1974 in India, Ethiopia, Somalia, 1975 in Bangladesh. In 1979 World Health Organization announced compete victoryover smallpox.

E. Więckowska-historian, Medical of Akademy in Wroclaw

Obstetric care in the Kingdom of Poland on the threshold of the 19th and 20th centuries

On the threshold of the 19th and 20th centuries, Polish society and the Polish medical profession were aware of the need to organise professional obstetric care, as well as care for pregnant women and mothers with children. To make such help possible and available, the state had to undertake set tasks and invest in an infrastructure which would ensure its provision. However, Russia was not interested in the arrangement and provision of such care. It frowned upon the work of the Polish medical profession during this period. Therefore, Polish society had to arrange obstetric care on its own in order to reduce the rate of stillbirths and mortality among infants and children.

Between the end of the 1890’s and the outbreak of World War I, the number of beds in obstetric clinics in Warsaw remained unchanged. There were about 80 beds in Warsaw, and none at all in the provinces. We must remember that the population of the Kingdom of Poland in 1902 was 1.2 million, therefore one can say that specialist obstetric care was symbolic. With the discontinuation of training for rural midwives at the Institute of Obstetrics in Warsaw in 1903, there was basically no organised specialist obstetric care. The shortage of obstetric care in the Kingdom of Poland was enhanced by the absence of health insurance which was introduced to the Prussian and Austrian partition zones in the 1890’s. This insurance gave working pregnant women entitlement to paid maternity leave and sickness benefit and provided health care during pregnancy and childbirth, but did not guarantee specialist care for babies and infants.

At the beginning of the 20th centuries, only 20 % of births were performed by midwives. Out of a population of 11,4534,000 in the Kingdom of Poland in 1911, there were 706 midwives, half of whom lived in Warsaw. Polish society endeavoured to solve the problem of specialist obstetric care on its own. The results of this endeavour can be seen during the World War I period. During these difficult war years, Polish society created a series of self-help organisations which, among other things, were engaged in health care and in providing medical assistance, including obstetric care.

Ewa Szmaj – historian, Medical University in Silesia

Health care advise for women in the journal “Moja przyjaciółka” from 1934 to 1939

This paper is focused on health care and cosmetic advise published in the journal for women “Moja przyjaciółka” in the 30’s of 20th century. On the basis of that journal sections, the article was divided into such parts as: „My kobiety – między sobą…” – zdrowie, „My kobiety – między sobą…” – kosmetyka ciała, „Porady kosmetyczne”, „Higiena i zdrowie”. „Dziecko” and „To i owo dla panów” are briefly described. The paper treat of some ailments like headache, cold, varices, urticaria, liver and stomach diseases, syphilis and other which afflicted polish people at that time. Some cosmetological problems, from borderline of cosmetics and dermatology are also discuss, e.g. sweating, acne, skin ageing, scars and methods of depilation, hair dyeing, face and body care at home and in beauty salons, make-up etc. There are a lot of recipes for home-made cosmetics from the interwar years in this paper. In this way, some kind of body care, hygiene and healthy lifestyle knowledge analysis was achieved, just as verification of satisfying needs of the readers by the “Moja przyjaciółka” editors.

Sylwia Kuźma Markowska-historian University of Warsaw

Conscious Motherhood in Practice: Birth Control Clinics in the Interwar United States

The article presents and analyzes the establishment and development of a chain of birth control clinic in the United States. It argues that the main factors that contributed to the expansion of clinics offering contraceptive advice for married women were: the Great Depression and worsening economic conditions that affected American families at that time; engagement of social and professional groups such as doctors, social workers, Protestant clergy, female activists, judges; professionalization and standardization procedures that were employed in the clinics, medicalization of birth control. Contraception, presented as a means for solving salient social problems such as poverty, degeneracy, or poor housing conditions, started to be accepted by the broad public at the end of the 1930s.

The detailed description of clinics is presented on the basis of the sources pertaining to the state of Illinois and specifically its biggest city – multicultural, multiethnic, and industrial Chicago. The clinics that were set up in Chicago by the Illinois Birth Control League, social associations, charity organizations, settlement houses and hospitals were characterized by diversity and innovation. Clinics’ patients background varied. The majority of women who sought contraceptive advice came from the lowest and poorest strata, from the families affected by unemployment or diseases. At large, they obtained contraceptives (pessary) free of charge. The dominance of women doctors and nurses in the clinics allow for treating them as a female sphere of medical expertise.

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