Women were prohibited from studying medicine in ancient Greece for several years until someone broke the law.
Agnodice, who was born in 300 BCE, cut her hair and entered Alexandria medical school dressed as a man. She heard the cries of a woman in labor while walking the streets of Athens after finishing her medical education. Despite her severe pain, the woman refused to allow Agnodice to touch her because she mistook Agnodice for a man. Agnodice demonstrated her femininity by removing her clothes in public and assisting the woman in giving birth.
The story quickly spread among the women, and all of the sick women began to visit Agnodice. Male doctors became envious and accused Agnodice, whom they mistook for a man, of seducing female patients. Agnodice stood in front of the court and proved that she was a woman, but she was sentenced to death for studying medicine and practicing medicine as a woman.
Women were outraged by the sentence, particularly the wives of the judges who had handed down the death penalty. Some claimed that if Agnodice was killed, they would also perish. Unable to withstand the pressures of their wives and other women, the judges commuted Agnodice’s sentence, and women were permitted to practice medicine as long as they only cared for women.
As a result, Agnodice established herself as the first Greek female doctor, physician, and gynecologist. The plaque depicting Agnodice at work in the image was discovered in Ostia, Italy.