Episode 379: Susan H. Brandt, Women Healers in Early America

Book cover for Women Healers by Susan H. BrandtWomen make up eight out of every ten healthcare workers in the United States. Yet they lag behind men when it comes to working in the roles of medical doctors and surgeons.

Why has healthcare become a professional field dominated by women and yet women represent a minority of physicians and doctors who serve at the top of the healthcare field?

Susan H. Brandt, a historian and lecturer at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, seeks to find an answer to these questions. In doing so, she takes us into the rich history of women healers with details from her book, Women Healers: Gender, Authority, and Medicine in Early Philadelphia.

About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with a historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

Ben Franklin’s World is a production of Colonial Williamsburg Innovation Studios.

Episode Summary

Headshot of Susan H. Brandt, author of Women HealersSusan H. Brandt is a historian and former nurse practitioner. She’s a Lecturer at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. Her research focuses on women and gender and the history of medicine and health in early America, and she’s the author of Women Healers: Gender, Authority, and Medicine in Early Philadelphia.

During our investigation of women healers, Susan reveals information about the roles women performed as healers during the early modern period; How women created and passed down medical knowledge from one culture and one generation to the next; And, why and how women’s roles as healers and medical practitioners became obscured and erased form our collective historical memory.

What You’ll Discover

  • The kinds of medical practices women healers performed
  • Women in Quaker communities
  • Guilerma Penn
  • The Lady Bountiful
  • 17th and 18th-century recipe books kept by women healers
  • How women learned healing skills
  • Cross-cultural exchange between European, Indigenous, and Black healers
  • Elizabeth Coates Paschall
  • Hannah Freeman
  • Black women healers during the Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic of 1793
  • Sarah Bass
  • Republican Motherhood
  • The cult of domesticity
  • Women’s continued participation in the medical field
  • The legacy of early American women healers

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Complementary Episodes

Time Warp PlainTime Warp Question

In your opinion, what if wealthy women hadn't taken on the role of healers or “Lady Bountifuls” in their communities during the late 17th and early 18th centuries? How do you think early American communities would've fared?

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