While surgical procedures were not as extensive or effective as they are today, women were engaged in surgical practice in varying degrees throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Early seventeenth-century diarist Lady Margaret Hoby provides first-hand accounts of her surgical practice, as, for example, when she tended to a deep cut on her servant’s hand. Memoirs and other historical narratives show women tending the wounded during the English Civil War (1642–51). The various wound remedies found throughout women’s recipe books indicate that women were prepared for all kinds of injuries and accidents in their household, including broken bones, toothaches, and other common catastrophes.
The image above is from a Latin treatise by Johann Scultetus and it shows the tools of the surgeon’s trade. The treatment of wounds, particularly those following amputation, were treatments in which women such as Lady Anne Halkett and Lucy Hutchinson participated while tending the wounded during the English Civil War. An English edition of this treatise was published in 1674.
Surgery at the time also included the treatment and healing of wounds, and recipes for such things as “To stop bleeding inwardly” and “To stop bleeding in a wound,” as are seen in Mary Baumfylde's book, are relatively common. Although the treatments differ—the former calls for a drink and a poultice (a sticky substance applied externally to moisturize and medicate the hurt area), the latter is a poultice only —the similarity in the title and the external application of the poultice tie the two together as related procedures. The internal bleeding, however, lies in the grey area between physic and surgery.
Mary Baumfylde. Medicinal and cookery recipes of Mary Baumfylde. Manuscript, 1626
Crispijn van de Passe. Hortus floridus. English. Utrecht, 1615
Jacques Guillemeau. Oeuvres de chirurgie. English. Dordrecht, 1597 (i.e. 1598)
Of Soldiers and Surgeries