A study of history provides many examples of women pioneers, and medicine is no exception. Although very few trace as far back as Metrodora.
Metrodora, A Pioneer in Women’s Health
Metrodora, a pioneer in women’s health is often referred to as the “Mother of Gynecology.” She was a Greek physician of Egyptian origin born sometime between 200 A.D. and 400 A.D. Her medical text, The Diseases and Cures of Woman, is believed to be the oldest surviving medical work written by a woman. It outlines gynecological methods still used today. The text, two volumes containing 63 chapters, is one of the first known medical texts to have alphabetical headings.
Metrodora lived up to her name. Derived from the Greek word “metro,” meaning womb, and “dora,” meaning gift, she was a gift as a physician. Her life’s work addressed the needs of women that we still use today.
Metrodora left a gynecological legacy that continues to this day including
- Using the speculum to examine the vaginal canal.
- Introducing using what we now call a tampon.
- Pioneering surgical interventions treating malignant ulcers (what we call cancer today) in the ovaries and uterus.
- Initiating the discussion of sexual abuse and assault. Her work provided guidelines for physical indications and what to look for in a patient.
- Innovative surgical procedures for hymen, aesthetic breast, and facial reconstruction.
Metrodora left an undeniable legacy in women’s health, but what do we know about her personal life? Who was she, really?
The Mystery of Metrodora
Details of her personal life remain a mystery. We know little about her outside of her work. However, a long-held rumor is that “Metrodora” was an alias for Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt. Because of this legend, Cleopatra is sometimes literature refers to the queen of Egypt as Cleopatra Metrodora. But there’s no definitive evidence that they were the same person.
Metrodora, The Mother of Gynecology
Metrodora, the mother of gynecology is renowned for her knowledge and practice as a gynecologist, midwife, and scholar throughout Greece. Her writings are preserved in the Laurentian Library in Florence, Italy. Some scholars would argue that J. Marion Sims should hold the title of the “father of modern gynecology.” Still, whoever she may be, Metrodora has done more to be acknowledged and recognized for her revolutionary work in women’s health. Her work stands for itself.
Wherever you land on the subject, we are grateful for her contributions to women’s health.
Do you live in Northwest Arkansas and need a gynecologist or women’s health care provider? Contact Creekside Center for Women. We offer services for women in all stages of life. Our caring, friendly staff is here to help you. 479.582.9268