Medicatrix is a rare example of a medical text written by a woman in the early modern period. It is a dogged vindication of the medical practices and political beliefs of her father, Thomas O’Dowde.
The book opens with a strategic dedication to Jane Lane, Lady Fisher, a Royalist heroine who enabled Charles II’s escape at the end of the English Civil War. O’Dowde was a fervent Royalist whose imprisonment and torture by Oliver Cromwell is recounted in Trye’s narrative. He later attempted to found a Society of Chemical Physicians to rival the more traditionalist, University-based, and parliamentarian Royal College of Physicians.
Medical practices were urgently debated during the 1665-1666 Great Plague of London. Henry Stubbe, O’Dowde’s adversary, advocated the use of phlebotomy—blood-letting—and left the metropolis to avoid infection. In contrast, Trye and O’Dowde prescribed ‘chemical’ cures and remained in London, where O’Dowde himself died of the disease.
This copy of Medicatrix is one of only nine known to survive. Printed inexpensively, it doubles as advertisement: the final eight pages list Trye’s medications.
Anna Thomas (Graduate Library Trainee, 2012–13)
Sources and further reading:
- Catalogue record on SOLO
- Cook, Harold J., ‘Mary Trye’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004.
- Linden, Stanton J., ‘Mrs. Mary Trye, Medicatrix: Chemistry and Controversy in Restoration England’, Women’s Writing 1.3 341-353, 1994.
- Mcgrath, Lynette, ‘The Other Body: Women’s Inscription of their Physical Images in 16th- and 17th-century England’, Women’s Studies 26.1 27-58, 1997.