To Dr.—An Answer to his Queries, con­cerning the COLLEDG of MIDWIVES.

TO answer your Query, Doctor, Whether ever there were a Colledg of Midwives in any part of the World? Accor­ding to my Promise made the 12th Instant, I will now prove, there was some Hundreds, if not Thousands of Years before you can prove one of Physicians: As appears both by Sacred and Prophane Histories. I will begin with the first; and desire you to read the first Chapter of Exodus.

Vers. 15. And the King of Egypt spake to the Hebrew Mid­wives, of which the Name of the one was Shiprah, and the other Puah.

Vers. 16. And he said unto them, When ye do the Office of a Midwife to the Hebrew Women, and see them upon the Stooles; if it be a Son, you shall kill him: but if it be a Daughter, then she shall live.

Vers. 17. But the Midwives feared God, and did not as the King of Egypt commanded them, but saved the Men Children alive.

Vers. 20. Wherefore God dealt well with the Midwives: and the People multiplied, and waxed very mighty.

Vers. 21. And it came to pass, because the Midwives feared God, that he made them Houses.

I believe no Rational Person will think that these two Wo­men could in their own Persons act as Midwives to all the Wo­men of that mighty People, who about 100 Years after went up [Page 2] out of Egypt 600000 Fighting Men, besides Women and Chil­dren, and a great mixt Multitude, but rather that they were the Governesses and Teachers of other Midwives, which could not be a few; and as I am informed by a Learned Rabbi, now in Town, their Names signify the same.

And the Apostle saith, That God built them Houses, and blessed them.

Now if it were, as some think, that these were not Israelites but Egyptians, appointed Governesses over such as should assist the Hebrew Women, who by Conversation among them lear­ned the knowledg of the only true God, and fearing him, did not impose those bloody Orders of destroying the Males.

Then it was plain that the Government of that Art was regu­lar, under Superiours, as the Magi and Priesthood of that Nation was, and must have some certain place for consulting in, from whence they might issue their Directions. Which, by your leave, Doctor, without Absurdity in the Language of these Times, might well be called a Colledg.

But for the Piety of the Ruling Midwives God built them Houses: that is, they were Incorporated into the Body of the Jews, and reckoned Honourable Families among them: As Rahab and others for their singular Service to that Nation afterwards were. Which Families of the Faithful Midwives, some Hebrews say, continue in Honour among them at Thessalonica to this Day.

And such a favour from God of building Houses for them, we do not read the Physicians ever received; nor was Physick then a regular Study, nor brought under Government in that Learned Nation of Egypt, in Herodotus his time, which put together, proves the Antiquity of the Midwives Government so much antienter than that of the Doctors.

For your further Satisfaction be pleased to read Origen his 11th Homily upon Exodus, which will inform you, that Shiprah and Puah were not only the Governesses of the Mid­wives, but also Women of Great Learning, and excellently [Page 3] skill'd in Physick, which was then practised by Women to Women.

And you cannot deny at our last Conference, but that Hippo­crates swears by Apollo and Escalapius, and by Hygea and Pana­cea the Gods and Goddesses of Physick: And pray, Doctor, who were the Gods and Goddesses of Antiquity, but Men and Wo­men, who first found out and taught Arts and Mysteries so be­neficial to Mankind, as made them think they could not but be guided by a Divine Spirit to the knowledg of things so useful and so far above the Vulgar Capacities This? Hippocrates is so ingenuous as to confess, and doth not part the Gods and God­desses, but had them in equal Veneration, as appears by his Oath, to which I refer you, because I perceive you have forgot it; For he swears he will not cut those that have the Stone, but will leave it to the skilful in that Practice. But you, tho you understand nothing of it, pretend to teach us an Art much more difficult (And which ought to be kept as a Secret amongst Women as much as is possible.)

'Tis true among the subtile Athenians, some Physicians being gotten into the Government, and Miscarriages happening to some Noble Women about that time, they obtain'd a Law, that for the future no Woman should study or practise any part of Physick on pain of Death. This Law continued some time, during which many Women perished both in Child bearing, and by private Diseases; their Modesty not permitting them to admit of Men either to Deliver or Cure them.

Till God stirred up the Spirit of Agnodicea, a Noble Maid, to pity the miserable condition of her own Sex, and hazard her Life to help them, which to enable her self to do, she cut off her Hair, Apparelled her self like a Man, and became the Scholar of Hyrophilus the most Famous Physician of that Time, and having learn'd the Art, she found out a Woman that had long languish'd under private Diseases, and made proffer of her Service to cure her, which the sick Person refused, thinking her [Page 4] to be a Man; but when Agnodicea had discovered that she was a Maid, the Woman committed her self into her Hands, who cured her perfectly: And after her many others with the like Skill and Industry. So that in a short time she became the Successful and Beloved Physician of the whole Sex, none but she being called to assist them.

This so incensed the Physicians that they conspired her Ruin, saying she shaved off her Beard to abuse the Women, who feigned themselves Sick to enjoy her Company; and there be­ing Witnesses to be found then (as of late Years, that would swear any thing for Money) she was upon their Testimony, condemned to Death for committing Adultery with Agisilea one of the Areopagites Wives; it being easy to make Old Men, who had beautiful Wives, believe any thing of so young and handsome a Doctor.

This forced Agnodicea to discover her Sex to save her Life; and then the enraged Physicians accused her of transgressing the Law, which forbid Women to Study or Practise Physick. And for this Crime she was like to be condemned to Death; which coming to the Ears of the Noble Women, they ran be­fore the Areopagites, which were the Chief Magistrates, and the House being encompassed by most Women of the City, the Ladies entred before the Judges, and told them they would no longer account them for Husbands or Friends, but for cruel Enemies, that condemned her to Death, who restored them to their Healths; protesting they would all die with her if she were put to Death.

This caused the Magistrates to disanul that Law, and make another, which gave Gentlewomen leave to Study and Practise all parts of Physick to their own Sex, giving large Stipends to those that did it well and carefully, and imposing severe Penalties upon the unskilful and negligent: And there were many Noble Women who studied that Practise, and taught it publickly in their Schools as long as Athens flourished in Learning.

[Page 5] But Phanarota the Mother of wise Socrates, who was a Wo­man of great Learning and Skill, deserves a particular remem­brance, both for her own, and her Son's sake; who, as it is be­lieved by many, was a Martyr, being put to Death for pro­fessing there was but one God, which Wisdom himself saith he learned of his Mother. Thus, Doctor, it appears, even that Learned Idolatrous City had in it a Midwife that knew and feared the true God: Tho, as the Apostle saith, there was an Al­tar therein dedicated to the unknown God, &c.

This Ambrose Perre, Counsellour and Chyrurgion to the King of France, and his Ingenuous Disciple Gulielmus, prove fully: and that is as far as my small Learning and weak Capa­city goes. But you, Doctor, may prove it more at large when you please, by the Hebrew, Greek, Latin and Arabick Books, which treat on these Subjects; in which times the three parts of Physick, Midwifery, Chirurgery, and the making up and admi­nistring of Medicines, were all one, tho the last, which was then the servile part, hath now usurp'd upon the other two; but we pretend only to the First, as being the most Antient, Honourable and Ʋseful Part: Wherein we desire you not to concern your selves, until we desire your Company, which we will certain­ly do as often as we have occasion for your Advice in any thing we do not understand, or which doth not appertain to our Practice.

But to come into our own Country, it is not hard to prove by antient British Books and Writings, that before the Romans came hither here were Colledges of Women practising Physick, dedicated to some of the Female Deities; but whether so anti­ent as the Bards I cannot tell, tho some old British Songs written in praise of the Goddess Trawth, seem to prove it: but they were in the time of the Druides, as appears both by Brit­tish and French Books, and the Name of Wise Women, by which Midwives are still called in France, and most of the Western Parts, as they are by that of Wise Mother in the [Page 6] Low-Countries, Germany, and most of the Northern Parts of the World.

And here in London were Colledges of Women about the Tem­ple of Diana, who was Goddess of Midwives here, as well as at Ephesus. From whence the Grecians say, she was absent at Q. Olympia's Labour, who was that Night deliver'd of Alexander the Great; where she was so fully employed, that she could not defend her Stately Temple, which was burned down by Herostrateus the Shoemaker, to perpetuate his Name.

Nor did the Bishops pretend to License Midwives till Bp. Bonner's time, who drew up the Form of the first License, which continued in full force till 1642, and then the Physicians and Chirurgions contending about it, it was adjudg­ed a Chyrurgical Operation, and the Midwives were Licensed at Chirurgions-Hall, but not till they had passed three Examinati­ons, before six skilful Midwives, and as many Chirurgions expert in the Art of Midwifery. Thus it continued until the Act of Uniformity passed, which sent the Midwives back to Doctors Commons, where they pay their Money, (take an Oath which is impossible for them to keep) and return home as skilful as they went thither.

I make no Reflections on those learned Gentlemen the Licen­sers, but refer the curious for their further satisfaction, to the Yearly Bills of Mortality, from 42 to 62: Collections of which they may find at Clerks-Hall: Which if they please to compare with these of late Years, they will find there did not then hap­pen the eight part of the Casualties, either to Women or Chil­dren, as do now.

I hope, Doctor, these Considerations will deter any of you from pretending to teach us Midwifery, especially such as con­fess they never delivered Women in their Lives, and being asked What they would do in such a Case? reply they have not yet studied it, but will when occasion serves; This is something to the pur­pose I must confess, Doctor: But I doubt it will not satisfy the [Page 7] Women of this Age, who are so sensible and impatient of their Pain, that few of them will be prevailed with to bear it, in Complement to the Doctor, while he fetches his Book, studies the Case, and teaches the Midwife to perform her work, which she hopes may be done before he comes.

I protest, Doctor, I have not Power enough with the Wo­men to hope to prevail with them to be patient in this case, and I think if the Learnedst of you all should propose it whilst the Pains are on, he would come off with the same Applause which Phormio had, who having never seen a Battel in his Life, read a Military Lecture to Hannibal the Great.

But let this pass, Doctor, as I do the Discourses you have often made to me on this Subject, and I will tell you something worthy of your most serious Consideration: Which is,

That in September last, our Gracious Soveraign was pleased to promise to unite the Midwives into a Corporation, by His Royal Charter, and also to found a Cradle-Hospital, to breed up exposed Children, to prevent the many Murders, and the Executions which attend them; which pious Design will never want a suitable Return from God, who no doubt will fully reward his Care for preserving so many Innocents as would otherwise be lost.

And I doubt not but one way will be by giving him a Prince by his Royal Consort, who like another Moses may become a Mighty Captain for the Nation; and lead to Battel the Soldi­ers which the Hospital will preserve for him.

And now, Doctor, let me put you in mind, that tho you have often Laughed at me, and some Doctors have accounted me a Mad Woman these last four Years, for saying Her Majesty was full of Children, and that the Bath would assist her Breed­ing: 'Tis now proved so true, that I have cause to hope my self may live to praise God, not only for a Prince of Wales, and a Duke of York, but for many other Royal Babes by Her; and if the over Officious will but be pleased to let them live, I hope in [Page 8] a few Years to see them Muster their little Soldiers: Which Joy­ful Sight, I believe, is the hearty Desire of all Loyal Subjects, of what Persuasion soever, as it is the daily and fervent Prayer of,

Where the Word of a King is, there is Power: and who shall say unto him, What doest thou? Eccles. 8. vers. 4.

Let this be Printed,


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