Charcot & The Myth Of Misogyny
Christopher G. Goetz, MD
Rush University, Rush Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center, Chicago, IL.
To evaluate Jean-Martin Charcot's attitudes toward women and evaluate contemporary and modern accusations of Misogyny.
Review of original documents from the Bibliothèque Charcot, archives of the Sorrel-Dejerine and Leguay families, and materials from the Académie de Médecine, Paris.
Several lines of evidence demonstrate that Charcot, although highly authoritarian and
patronizing toward patients and colleagues in general, fostered the concepts of advancing women in the medical profession and eliminating former gender biases in neurologic disorders.
The first woman extern in Paris, Blanche Edwards, worked directly under Charcot, and he later became her thesis advisor. When women lobbied for entrance rights to the intern
competition, Charcot was one of the few professors to sign the original petition of support.
Charcot worked extensively with hysteria and female patients, although he energetically rejected the idea that the disorder was restricted to women. He categorically deplored ovariectomy as a treatment for women with hysteria. His most important scientific contribution in the study of hysteria was his identification of the disorder in men.
Although overtly apolitical throughout his life and certainly not a feminist in the modern definition of the term, Charcot worked to incorporate women professionally into Neurology.
Charcot also advanced areas of women's health through his long-term commitment to work in a largely women's hospital (the Salpêtrière), and dispelled the prejudice that Hysteria was a woman's malady.
Neurology 52 May 1999
Copyright © 1999: All rights reserved by The American Academy of Neurology.