Women and Entrepreneurship in the Early Modern World: The Case of Women Medical Practitioners in England

Sunday, January 10, 2010: 8:50 AM
Edward B (Hyatt)
Leigh Whaley , Acadia University, Wolfville, NS, Canada
The English word entrepreneur is commonly associated with business practices. The term actually originates from the French word entreprendre which means “to undertake, execute, organize or operate”.[1]  Concepts often associated with entrepreneurship are risk, innovation, and creativity. This paper attempts to apply those meanings of entrepreneurship to the work and healing practices of three seventeenth century female medical practitioners, Elizabeth Moore, Jane Pemell or Pennell and Mary Rose.  Existing archival records for these women are considerably more detailed than for many of the others and thus allows the historian a window into the world of the female practitioner and the challenges they faced.  The first challenge confronting these women was that of obtaining a license to practice medicine  and/ or surgery.  My paper will delve into the issues of medical licenses and guilds as both greatly impacted the way in which women practiced medicine.
Traditionally, women practitioners did not have the same network of support as their male colleagues.  Women would thus adopt creative strategies such as treating patients without a license - which was a form of risk taking, in order to build up positive testimonials they required to obtain a license.   In addition to an exploration of licenses and the authorities which granted them and the impact they made upon women, my paper will compare and contrast the medical entrepreneurship of the women cited above in their respective medical practices. 
The principal sources for this paper are the medical records contained in Archbishops’ Archives, (Vicar General), Lambeth Palace Library, London. These archives contain numerous letters and testimonials about the medical practices.  Sources, such as these records, will enable scholars to understand the creativity and entrepreneurship of female medical practitioners.

[1] Jean Dubois, ed., Larousse dictionnaire du Français Contemporain, (Paris: Larousse, 1966), 442