Category: People

Jody Williams

Dates: October 9, 1950 –

Known for: campaign to ban landmines

Occupation: peace activist, teacher

Organization: International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL)


  • Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (Master’s, International Relations, 1984)
  • School for International Training, Vermont (Master’s, Teaching Spanish and ESL, 1976)
  • University of Vermont (B.A., 1972)

About Jody Williams:

Jody Williams, who grew up in Brattleboro, Vermont, credits her empathy and orientation to protecting others to her childhood when it often fell to her to defend her deaf and schizophrenic older brother from bullies. She was an activist in the antiwar movement during the Vietnam war.

After an early career teaching English as a Second Language (ESL), where she traveled to Mexico and the United Kingdom, in 1981 Jody Williams began working against United States policy in Central America.

After geting a master’s degree in international relations, Jody Williams worked on the Nicaragua-Honduras Education Project (1984-1986) and humanitarian relief for Medical Aid for El Salvador (1986-1992). In her work in Central America, she saw the effect of landmines.

Jody Williams began working in 1991 to create an effort to ban landmines, and helped create the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) in 1992. She became the founding coordinator, and has been the leading spokesperson for that organization

as it has grown from a founding network of six non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to more than 1400.

In 1997, the campaign gained public notice with the active support of Diana, Princess of Wales, shortly before her death. Later that year, the ICBL was successful in getting an international treaty to ban landmines signed by 125 nations, including most NATO members but not the United States.

In 1998, Jody Williams relinquished her coordination role within ICBL, remaining as Campaign Ambassador, and has pursued other projects to promote peace and human rights and to oppose war.

Alessandra Giliani

You’ve probably never heard of Alessandra Giliani, though she was a pioneer in anatomy research. In the 14th century, when cadavers were dissected for research and educational purposes, she became known as a qualified prosector — one who dissects cadavers for demonstration to university students — the only known woman prosector in medieval Europe. She is also credited with inventing the method of

injecting colored liquids into blood vessels in order to study the circulatory system.

Dates: ~1307 – March 26, 1326
Occupation: surgeon’s assistant, anatomist

About Alessandra Giliani:

Alessandra Giliani was an assistant to Mondino de Luzzi, who wrote an anatomy handbook in 1316. He was known as the “father of anatomy.” She was his “valued dissector and assistant.” While working with him, she specialized in dissections for demonstrations and research, and pioneered the technique of injecting colored liquids to trace the circulatory system.

Alessandra Giliani was honored by Otto Angenius, probably her fiance, with a plaque at the Church of San Pietro e Marcellino describing her work — and their relationship.

Places: Bologna, Italy


About Agnodice:

Dates: 4th century BCE

Occupation: physician, gynecologist

Places: Athens, Greece

More About Agnodice:

Agnodice dressed as a man to study with the doctor Herophilus. She began to practice gynecology, still disguised.

Her fame became great, and fellow doctors accused her of corrupting women. She was forced to reveal herself as a woman in order to escape execution — and then was charged with

practicing medicine illegally since women were not permitted to practice medicine. The court in Athens acquitted Agnodice.

The only source for information about Agnodice is from the first century CE by the Latin writer Hyginus. Thus, it is likely that Agnodice’s story is mythical rather than historical.

Trota or Trotula

Known for: author(?) of Trotula, a medieval medical, gynecological, and obstetrical text
Occupation: physician, writer
Dates: ? – 1097?
Also known as: Trota of Salerno, Trotula of Salerno, Trotula of Ruggerio, Trotula Platearius, Trocta

About Trota or Trotula:

The Trotula was a name given to compilations of medieval medical texts, including (according to one modern translator, Monica Green, who attributes

just one to Trota) Practica secundum Trotam (Trota’s Practical Medicine), De egritudinum curatione (Treatment of Illnesses), and On Treatments for Women. One compilation was titled De passionibus mulierum (Diseases of Women), or Trotula Major. The author was given as Trota.

These first appeared in the twelfth century, probably in Salerno, Italy, and were considerably revised and eventually standardized over the next several centuries. They were originally written in Latin, and by the 16th century had been translated into just about every European language. These texts formed the foundation of much of the practice of gynecological and obstetric medicine in Europe in the medieval period.

These medical writings were, by some, identified as those of a man, probably because her frank addressing of issues of childbirth and the female body were not expected of women. But the author identifies herself as a woman in the text, explaining that women patients are more likely to be honest when attended

by a woman physician.

Thus, some accept that the author of these texts was an 11th-century woman, Trota, who served as an obstetrician, gynecologist, and physician in Salerno, where there was in that time a school of medicine of significant fame. The school was a key entrance point into European Christian culture of the ideas and practices found in Arabic medical texts. Johannes Platerarius of the school is identified by some historians as her husband, and Matthias and Johannes the Younger, also medical writers, are sometimes identified as her sons.

Others believe that there was no real Trota, and that her name is simply a device used by the real author or authors.

Many of the practices in the books are based on medical beliefs now known to be scientifically questionable or unfounded, such as “wind” in the uterus, or a “wandering womb.” The books contain many herbal and other remedies for various medical conditions. Some practices are surprisingly modern, such as the use of silk thread to repair tears that occur during delivery, or the instructions for how to handle abnormal birth presentations. She recommended the use of opium in childbirth, contrary to church teachings that women must suffer in childbirth.

Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales refer to this physician and writer as Dame Trot.

Judy Chicago’s feminist art project, The Dinner Party, included a place setting representing Trotula.

Places: Southern Italy

Period: Medieval