Pocky Wenches Versus La Pauvre Femme: Medical Perceptions of Venereal Disease in Seventeenth-century England and France

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In early modern Europe, syphilis tormented individuals regardless of social standing. The various stages of infection rendered individuals with visible chancres or “pocky” marks throughout their body. The tertiary stage signaled the spreading of the disease from the infected parts into the brain and cardiovascular system, eventually leading to dementia and a painful death. Beginning with the initial medical responses to venereal disease in the sixteenth century and throughout the early modern period, medical practitioners attempted to identify the cause of syphilis. During the seventeenth century, English practitioners maintained that women were primarily responsible for both the creation and transmission ... continued below

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Findlater, Michelle J. December 2013.

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This thesis is part of the collection entitled: UNT Theses and Dissertations and was provided by UNT Libraries to Digital Library, a digital repository hosted by the UNT Libraries. It has been viewed 163 times . More information about this thesis can be viewed below.

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  • Findlater, Michelle J.

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In early modern Europe, syphilis tormented individuals regardless of social standing. The various stages of infection rendered individuals with visible chancres or “pocky” marks throughout their body. The tertiary stage signaled the spreading of the disease from the infected parts into the brain and cardiovascular system, eventually leading to dementia and a painful death. Beginning with the initial medical responses to venereal disease in the sixteenth century and throughout the early modern period, medical practitioners attempted to identify the cause of syphilis. During the seventeenth century, English practitioners maintained that women were primarily responsible for both the creation and transmission of syphilis. In England, venereal disease became the physical manifestation of illicit sexual behavior and therefore women with syphilis demonstrated their sexual immorality. Contrastingly, French medical practitioners refrained from placing blame on women for venereal infection. The historiography of early modern discourse on venereal disease fails to account for this discrepancy between English and French perceptions of syphilis in the seventeenth century. This thesis seeks to fill the gap in this historiography and suggest why French practitioners abstained from singling out women as the primary source of venereal infection by suggesting the importance that cultural influences and religious practices had toward shaping medical perceptions. The cultural impact of the querelle des femmes and Catholic practices in France plausibly influenced the better portrayal of women within the medical treatises of seventeenth-century France when compared to Protestant England.

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  • December 2013

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  • Nov. 8, 2014, 11:56 a.m.

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  • Nov. 16, 2016, 4:02 p.m.

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Findlater, Michelle J. Pocky Wenches Versus La Pauvre Femme: Medical Perceptions of Venereal Disease in Seventeenth-century England and France, thesis, December 2013; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc407748/: accessed October 17, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .