Pocky Wenches Versus La Pauvre Femme: Medical Perceptions of Venereal Disease in Seventeenth-century England and France Page: 2
Findlater, Michelle J. Pocky Wenches versus La Pauvre Femme: Medical Perceptions of
Venereal Disease in Seventeenth-Century England and France. Master of Arts (History),
December 2013, 119 pp., bibliography, 118 titles.
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
desfemmes and Catholic practices in France plausibly influenced the better portrayal of women
within the medical treatises of seventeenth-century France when compared to Protestant
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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. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc407748/m1/2/: accessed April 21, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; .