A Sick Sultana in the Ottoman Imperial Palace: Male Doctors, Female Healers and Female Patients in the Early Modern Period

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Abstract

Being a human endeavor, medical ethics and clinical practices are affected by a set of social and cultural norms in conjunction with factors pertaining to the patients’ social and financial status. In this paper, I consider how gender and money shaped medical realities in the early modern Ottoman Empire. People of means certainly had more medical options available to them, although that did not necessarily lead to better results. Gender too was naturally an important factor, molding medical options and the relationship between patient and healer. The specific case of the imperial harem will reveal how high socio-economic status has actually curbed women’s medical options, as their access to male doctors was limited. Based on Ottoman archival and legal sources and European travel literature, the paper examines how and why they were limited, and how they went about circumventing such restrictions. The picture that emerges reveals that being a member of the Ottoman elite had its price.

A Sick Sultana in the Ottoman Imperial Palace: Male Doctors, Female Healers and Female Patients in the Early Modern Period

in Hawwa

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ZeʾeviDror, Producing Desire: Changing Sexual Discourse in the Ottoman Middle East 1500–1900, (University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles 2006).

2

Monica H. Green“History of Science,” in Suad Joseph ed. Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures (Leiden: Brill 2003) vol. 1: Methodologies Paradigms and Sources 358–61.

3

Manfred UllmannIslamic Medicine (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press1978); Peter E. Pormann and Emilie Savage-Smith Medieval Islamic Medicine (The New Edinburgh Islamic Surveys; Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press 2007) 103–108.

4

Rare exceptions include Amira Sonbol“Doctors and Midwives: Women and Medicine at the Turn of the Century,” in Daniel Panzac et André Raymond eds. La France & l’Egypte: à l’époque des vice-rois 1805–1882 [Cahier des Annales Islamologiques 22] (Cairo: Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale 2002): 135–48; Mervat F. Hatem “The Professionalization of Health and the Control of Women’s Bodies as Modern Governmentalities in Nineteenth-Century Egypt” in Madeline C. Zilfi ed. Women in the Ottoman Empire: Middle Eastern Women in the Early Modern Era (Leiden: Brill 1997) 66–80; Khaled Fahmi “Women Medicine and Power in Nineteenth-Century Egypt” in Lila Abu-Lughod ed. Remaking Women: Feminism and Modernity in the Middle East (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1998) 35–72 (appeared in an Arabic translation as “Al-Nisaaʾ wal-Tibb wal-Sulta” fi al-Jasad wal-Hadatha: Al-Tibb wal-Qanun fi Misr al-Haditha (Al-Qahira: Dar al-Kutub wal-Wathaiq al-Qawmiyya 1425hijri / 2004); Hibba Abugideiri Gender and the Making of Modern Medicine in Colonial Egypt (Farnham Surrey England; Burlington VT: Ashgate 2010); Nil Sarı “Osmanlı Sağlık Hayatında Kadının Yeri” Yeni Tıp Tarihi Araştırmaları 2–3 (1996–97): 11–64; idem. “Osmanlı Sağlık Hayatında Kadının Yeri (Tamamlayıcı Belgeler)” Yeni Tıp Tarihi Araştırmaları 4 (1998): 247–54; Nuran Yıldırım “Meclis-i Vükelāʾnın Akıl Hastası Musevi bir Kadın için Aldığı Karar” Yeni Tıp Tarihi Araştırmaları 2–3 (1996–97): 258–59; Halil Sahillioğlu “Üsküdarʾın Mamure (Cedide) Mahallesi Fıtık Cerrahları” Yeni Tıp Tarihi Araştırmaları 4 (1998): 59–66; Tuba Demirci and Selçuk Akşın Somel “Women’s Bodies Abortion Policy and Perspectives in the Ottoman Empire of the Nineteenth Century” Journal of the History of Sexuality 17 (2008): 377–420; Gülhan Balsoy Gender and the Politics of the Female Body: Midwifery Abortion and Pregnancy in Ottoman Society (1838–1890s) (dissertation submitted to the State University of New York at Binghamton 2009).

7

Leslie P. Peirce“Seniority, Sexuality, and Social Order: The Vocabulary of Gender in Early Modern Ottoman Society,” in Madeline C. Zilfi ed. Women in the Ottoman Empire: Middle Eastern Women in the Early Modern Era (Leiden: Brill 1997) 169–96.

8

Ian C. Dengler“Turkish Women in the Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age,” in Lois Beck and Nikki Keddie eds. Women in the Muslim World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1978) 232 237.

10

See for example Gerrit Bos“Ibn al-Jazzār on Medicine for the Poor and Destitute,” Journal of the American Oriental Society118 (1998): 365–75.

12

Paul U. UnschuldMedicine in China: A History of Ideas (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press1985) 1–15; Lawrence I. Conrad “Medicine—Traditional Practice” The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World (4 vols. New York: Oxford University Press 1995) 3:85–88. For a similar description of the early modern English medical system see Andrew Wear “Interfaces: Perceptions of Health and Illness in Early Modern England” in Roy Porter and Andrew Wear eds. Problems and Methods in the History of Medicine (London: Croom Helm 1987) 235 240–41.

14

Monica H. Green“Women’s Medical Practice and Health Care in Medieval Europe,” in J. Bennet et al. eds. Sisters and Workers in the Middle Ages (Chicago: Chicago University Press 1989) 39–78.

19

Halil Sahillioğlu“Üsküdarın Mamure (Cedide) Mahallesi Fıtık Cerrahları,” Yeni Tıp Tarihi Araştırmaları4 (1998): 64.

21

Avner Giladi“Liminal Craft, Exceptional Law: Preliminary Notes on Midwives in Medieval Islamic Writings,” IJMES42 (2010): 194; Susan A. Spectorsky Women in Classical Islamic Law (Leiden: Brill 2010) 191–95.

22

Ahmed Ragab“Epistemic Authority of Women in the Medieval Middle East,” Hawwa8 (2010): 181–216.

25

Dror ZeʾeviProducing Desire: Changing Sexual Discourse in the Ottoman Middle East 1500–1900 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press2006).

32

Vildan Özkan Göksoy“Topkapı Sarayıʾnda ‘Cariyeler Hastahanesi’,” I. Türk Tıp Tarihi Kongresi. İstanbul 17–19 Şubat 1988. Kongreye Sunulan Bildirler (Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu 1992) 193–98 levha 51–53; Sarı “Osmanlı Sağlık Hayatında Kadının Yeri” 16–17.

33

Otaviano BonThe Sultan’s Seraglio: An Intimate Portrait of Life at the Ottoman Court (London: Saqi Books1996) 89–90.

35

Arslan TerzioğluDie Hofspitäler und Andere Gesundheitseinrichtungen der Osmanischen Palastbauten unter Berücksichtigung der Ursprungfrage sowie Ihre Beziehungen zu den Abendländischen Hofspitälern (München: Dr. Rudolf Trofenik1979) 143–67. The floor plans are available in pp. 163–64; Göksoy “Topkapı Sarayında ‘Cariyeler Hastahanesi’” 193–97 levha 51–53.

37

Sarı“Osmanlı Sağlık Hayatında Kadının Yeri” 17.

38

Fransicus à Mesgnien MeninskiThesaurus linguarum orientalium (İstanbul: Simurg2000) 1:1895–96.

39

Leslie P. PeirceThe Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire (New York: Oxford University Press1993) 132–43.

40

Miri Shefer“Medical Treatment in the Ottoman Navy in the Early Modern Period,” Journal for Economic and Social History of the Orient50 (2007): 548–62.

41

Sarı“Osmanlı Sağlık Hayatında Kadının Yeri” 17.

43

M. Serrano y SanzAutobiografias y Memorias (Madrid: Bailly, Bailliére é hijos1905) 1–149. Here the name of the author is Cristópbal de Villalón.

44

Uriel Heyd“Moses Hamon, Chief Jewish Physician to Sultan Süleymān the Magnificent,” Oriens16 (1963): 163. Here the author is identified as Andrés de Laguna a physician and translator.

49

M. Çagatay Uluçay“Kanunî Sultan Süleyman ve Ailesiile (İligili Bazı Notlar ve Vesikalar),” Kanuni Armağanı (Ankara 1970) 245.

50

Peirce“Seniority Sexuality and Social Order” 183 191.

52

Delia Cortese and Simonetta CalderiniWomen and the Fatimids in the World of Islam (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press2006) 215–25.

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