" She became most valuable to Mondino because she would cleanse most skilfully the smallest vein, the arteries, all ramifications of the vessels, without lacerating or dividing them, and to prepare them for demonstration she would fill them with various coloured liquids, which, after having been driven into the vessels, would harden without destroying the vessels. Again, she would paint these same vessels to their minute branches so perfectly, and colour them so naturally, that, added to the wonderful explanations and teachings of the master, they brought him great fame and credit".
This passage with its description, as coming from a woman, of a very early anticipation of our most modern anatomical technique—injection, hardening, and colouring, so as to imitate nature for the making of anatomical preparations, for class and demonstration purposes—is all the more interesting because the next great improvement in anatomical teaching, the use of wax models of dissected specimens coloured to imitate nature, came also from a woman, Madame Manzolini, also of Bologna. Feminine instinct aroused women to use their inventive ability to do away with the necessity for always recurring to the deterrent material of fresh dissections, and yet securing such preparations as would make teaching not less but more effective.
Some doubt has been thrown on certain details of the story of Alessandra Giliani, but the memorial tablet erected at the time of her death in the Hospital Church of Santa Maria de Mareto in Florence gives all the important facts, and tells the story of the grief of her fiance, who was himself Mondino's other assistant. Like her, he died young also, when there were high hopes of his ability, and there is more than the suspicion that these two untimely deaths may have been due to dissecting wound infections. She died " consumed by her labours," so that it may have been phthisis; but he was taken by " a swift and lamentable death".
Nicaise, in the Introduction to his edition of Guy de Chauliac's " Grande Chirurgie " (Paris, 1893), has a brief review of the histoiy of women in medicine, with special reference to France. He supplies practically all the information available in very short compass, as well as the references where more details can be obtained.
" Women continued to practise medicine in Italy for centuries, and the names of some who attained great renown have been preserved for us. Their works are still quoted from in the fifteenth century.
"There was none of them in France who became distinguished, but women could practise medicine in certain towns at least on condition of passing an examination before regularly appointed masters. An edict of 1311, at the same time that it interdicts unauthorized women from practising surgery, recognizes their rights to practise the art if they have undergone an examination before the regularly appointed master surgeons of the corporation of Paris. An edict of King John, April, 1352, contains the same expressions as the previous edict. Du Bouley, in his ' History of the University of Paris,' gives another edict by the same king, also published in the year 1352, as a result of the complaints of the faculties at Paris, in which there is also question of women physicians. This responded to a petition : 'Having heard the petition of the Dean and Masters of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Paris, who declare that there are very many of both sexes, some of the women with legal title to practise and some of them merely old pretenders to a knowledge of medicine, who come to Paris in order to practise, be it enacted,' etc. (The edict then proceeds to repeat the terms of previous legislation in this matter).
" Guy de Chauliac speaks also of women who practised surgery. They formed the fifth and last class of operators in his time. He complains that they are accustomed to too great an extent to give over patients suffering from all kinds of maladies to the will, of Heaven, founding their practice on the maxim, ' The Lord has given as he has pleased ; the Lord will take away when he pleases; may the name of the Lord be blessed.'
" In the sixteenth century, according to Pasquier, the practice of medicine by women almost entirely disappeared. The number of women physicians becomes more and more rare in the following centuries, just in proportion as we approach our own time. Pasquier says that we find a certain number of them anxious for knowledge, and with a special penchant for the study of the natural sciences and even of medicine, but very few of them take up practice".
There seems, however, to have been not nearly so much freedom or so much encouragement for women in medicine in France as in Italy. Indeed, in the whole matter of education for women, medieval France has but little to record compared to Italy's significant chapter in the history of feminine education. One reason for this was doubtless the Heloise-Abelard incident early in the history of the University of Paris. This seems to have discouraged efforts in the direction of the securing of the higher education for women in most of the Western Universities. Oxford was a daughter university of Paris, and Cambridge of Oxford, and they and all the other universities of the West were more deeply influenced in their customs and organization by Paris than by Italy, and as a consequence we hear little of feminine education in the West generally. One result of this has been the existence of a feeling that, since women had very few opportunities for the higher education in Western Europe, they must have had them nowhere else. This presumption forms the basis of not a little misunderstanding of the Middle Ages in our time. It often takes but a little incident to set the current of history in a very different direction from that in which it might have gone, and this seems to have been the case as regards the higher education for women in France and Spain and England.