Extraordinary Women of the Medieval and Renaissance World: A Biographical Dictionary

By Carole Levin; Debra Barrett-Graves et al. | Go to book overview

JACQUELINE FÉLICIE
(Jacoba Felice)
(1290-d. after 1322)

France
Physician

Jacqueline Félicie de Almania was a woman of great skill and great courage who was successful at healing people, but that very success led her to be brought before the Inquisition in 1322 in Paris for practicing medicine without a license. Félicie's background is obscure; she was born around 1290 and may have been originally from Florence and emigrated to Paris. Some sources suggest that she was of Jewish descent and may have come to Paris from the Holy Roman Empire. A number of Jews, both men and women, are mentioned in a variety of European archives as practicing medicine in Europe in the fourteenth century, and Jewish women seem to be particularly adept as healers. Jews were known for their scholarship, which may have made some people more assured about their skills. There were several Jewish women who studied medicine at Salerno. Félicie managed to receive some training as a physician and practiced medicine in Paris in the early fourteenth century. But it was illegal for a woman to practice medicine--being successful made it all the more a crime-- and at first she was admonished to stop and forced to pay a fine. When she continued her work in 1322, she was arrested and threatened with excommunication. She was tried before the bishops of Paris and the Dean of the Medical Faculty at the University of Paris.

Félicie had been visiting the ill in Paris and the surrounding suburbs. She had felt people's pulses and examined their urine. She had promised to cure them if they had faith in her and then had given them various syrups and potions and other concoctions and visited them regularly. She had received payment for her work, but only if she cured her patients. Enough of them survived to allow Félicie to earn a good living, and her refusal to accept payment unless her treatment was successful made her very popular.

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