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Aesculapia victrix, fictions about women doctors, 1870-1900

by Farkas, Carol-Ann

Abstract (Summary)
This dissertation is a study of fictional representations of medical women published in England and America àetween 1870and 1900. First, by uncovering these forgotten " doctress " novels, the dissertation performs a recuperative function and serves as an introductory research guide and bibliography. Second, it examuies the doctress novels in relation to the major issues involving the non-fictional women doctors of this period. The concems of the doctress novels are inextricable from the personal and political interests of ml-life women as they redefined, or rejected, new forms of social influence and opportunity. As both historical, and literary,documents, these novels advance Our understanding of such reai authonty and status as professional women were able to acquire, and drarnatize the degree to which ideological obstacles stood in their way. The first chapter explores the representation in these novels of the medical woman as a positive role mode1 for readers. Following the strategy used by the medical woinen's movement, the novels show female physicians as the perfection of womanly ideals, rather than a threat to them. This strategy downplays the details of the woman doctor's knowledge and practice in favour of making her appear "real," but only in benign social and mord situations. Chapter Two argues that the novels deal with the other threat medical women posed to patriarchal society~conomicompetition with men-by using the woman doctor's romantic entanglements to teach readea to consider the need for new mde attitudes, and uew sexuai relationships, to go dong with the new female professional. Chapter Three concludes the project by considering the ways in which many women doctors, fictional or otherwise, sought to reconcile their new professionaiism with the competing demancis of tradition, through a cornmitment to social issues and social control. These novelists' well-intentioned portrayals of medical women as paragons of both professionalism and womanliness were successful; however, their very success may have hastened the gradua1 decline of the medicai women's movement in the early part of the twentieth century. For my grandmothers, Lena and Jeanette; for my parents. Ted and Ivy: and for my husband. Chnstopher. Tabte of Contents: Introduction: Resuscitating the Medical Woman ...................................... 1
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Source Type:Master's Thesis

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Date of Publication:01/01/2000

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