Sunday, 20 July 2014

Medical Matriarchs: The First Female Physicians

I just read a great article on three female Western medical physicians. Anandibai Joshi, Keiko Okami, and Sabat Islambouli eventually became among the first licensed female doctors in their respective countries: India, Japan and Syria. The picture above is so beautiful. It was due to the university they attended, run by Quakers, that these ladies were able to obtain their education.
women doctors 1885
The picture of awesome.
It made me want to find out who, if history knows, was the first actual female physician in recorded history. While women played so many roles in medicine as healers, I wanted to know when the term physician was first used in regards to a female healer. So I dragged out a couple of old history of medicine books I have and found two that I found interesting.

First, the term physician is problematic, as the etymology suggests:
early 13c., fisicien "a healer, a medical practitioner," from Old French fisiciien "physician, doctor, sage" (12c., Modern French physicien means "physicist"), from fisique "art of healing," from Latin physica "natural science" Distinguished from surgeon from c.1400. The ph- spelling attested from late 14c
To use the term in the ancient world, then, is based on the translation and their understanding of what a physician would be in that culture. To many, it has to be the first documented, societal accepted (example; licensed), and formally trained woman. The female doctors of Egypt fit this description. Being a doctor in Ancient Egypt was a big deal. It was a mix of spiritual practice, various healing methods, study and hard work. It was also open to both upper class men and women. They studied as apprentices to older physicians.

Memphis and Saqqara - a resting place of an awesome woman.

Merit Ptah is believed by scholars to be the first physician ever named in history. Her name means "beloved of the God Ptah". Ptah was the god of creation, arts and fertility, so if this god was her namesake, she had a powerful ally. She lived sometime in 2700 BCE during the Old Kingdom in Egypt. All we know about Merit Ptah is from her tomb, found near Memphis in the huge burial ground of Saqqara. On her tomb, her son - a priest- wrote that she was the chief physician of the women. An impact crater on Venus is named after her, giving her even more immortality. We'll remember her long after what's their names of the cover of People this week.
Merit Ptah likeness in her sarcophagus - doctor's bag not shown.
Another probable first physician was Peseshet (ca. 2500). We only know about this female physician because there's a stela at Giza in the tomb of her son, Akhethetep, a high official. It says that says she was the overseer of doctors. She was probably a physician in her own right as well as a supervisor and administrator of an entire body of female physicians. At the time, many women worked at the medical school at Sais.
In her son's tomb, a possible picture of his mom: wonder if she had to beg for funding?

So why in this day and age do we care who the first women physicians are? The reason is that we need to celebrate anyone who bucks the norm. Most societies in the world, before and now, try to limit women's roles by denying them access to higher education, careers, and voting, using the excuse that they are just not capable or it's not womanly. Clearly these women stand out as arguments against that type of thinking, and we need to remember and honour that.

Book References I used and recommended:

Nunn, John F. Ancient Egyptian Medicine. University of Oklahoma Press: 2002.

Allen, James P. The Art of Medicine in Ancient Egypt. Metropolitan Museum of Art: 2005

Thursday, 17 July 2014

History Screws Everyone: the Israeli and Palestinian Conflict

This week's history question comes from deep in the heart of Saskatchewan, from Anna-Maria in Moose Jaw, "I don't get it: why does Israelis and Palestinians fight all the time? What's the history behind all this crazy crap?"

Let's look at one person's artistic interpretation:

A blunt and honest question, Miss Moose-Jaw. Right now, there's a lot of media interest in the area again as Hamas (who is in charge in Palestinian territory which includes the West Bank and the Gaza Strip) and Israel call a brief cease-fire after Israeli air strikes on a Gaza beach kills four Palestinian children. What the media is light on is historical events that have lead to about 2,000 people dying this year already in an area the size of my backyard. 
map of Israel
Not my backyard pictured.
So, gather around and I'll tell you one reason why things are so bad in Israel. Remember, history stories always end with "And a lot of people, Arabs, Jews...everyone - dies horribly and needlessly."

Once upon a time, there was an area called Palestine that was under the control of someone or another all the time: Cannanites, Assyrians, Romans, Crusaders, Mongols, and so forth. Everyone called it something different, but our story begins when this area was controlled by the Ottoman Empire since the 1500s. The people who lived there, mostly Arab Muslims, but Christians, Jews, and other groups as well, were not happy living under the Ottoman Turks because they treated them like lesser beings. You also have the Jewish people and the Pan-Arab movement looking at the area as their historical homelands. So there was a lot of tension. Then things got worse: a world war started.

You can blame a lot of the conflict today on British Imperialism after World War I.

The promise of liberation from the Ottomans led many Jews and Arabs to support the allied powers during World War I, leading to the emergence of widespread Arab nationalism. The British promised that if the Arabs supported then in the war, the British government would support the establishment of an independent Arab state including Palestine, when they defeated the Turks. I can just see an evil old silent film era villain smiling and promising the world to the Arab people.
"We've got other plans for Palestine!"
A revolt, led by T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) and the Arab leader's son Faysal, was successful in defeating the Ottomans, and the British took control over the area including modern day Iraq and Palestine in 1917, along with France taking their chunk as well. The Arab people who fought so hard for their independence, were rightly pissed. Then the British decided to promise support for a Jewish "national home" in Palestine. The British sought legitimacy for their continued control of the region, which they got from the League of Nations in 1922. So, not only did the British screw them, but so did the rest of the world. Arab nationalists tried to revolt and created the Arab Kingdom of Syria in 1920, only to have crushed by the French.There was no way the British would give up anything either.

But look, you can have your own flag!
Under the British Mandate for Palestine, the land west of the Jordan River, known as Palestine, was under direct British administration, while the land east of the Jordan was a semi-autonomous region called Transjordan, which got independence in 1946. Jews began to immigrate (Zionist) once they heard of the British plan to create a homeland for them in the millions, and Palestinian Arabs saw this as being screwed out of their own homes. Again. They rioted in 1920, and in 1922 the British government tried to backpedal, saying they were not going to form a Jewish state.That really didn't help much as they knew how good the British were at keeping their word.

Riots broke out between the Jews and the Arabs, all leading to the huge 1936-39 Arab Revolt. Again the British wet their pants and tried to stop all Jewish immigrants. But now we come to the end of the road for many people: World War II and the Holocaust (Shoah) began and the Jews of Europe were being exterminated. The calls for a homeland continued as Jews fought with the British and many fled to Palestine illegally. Failing horribly to end the problems and economically broke from World War II, the British wanted and were informed by the UN to end their mandate over Palestine, and begged off the problem on the United Nations. The UN called for the creation of an independent Arab State, an independent Jewish State, and the City of Jerusalem. Well, that went over like a fart.
A man reads a document to a small audience assembled before him. Behind him are two elongated flags bearing the Star of David and portrait of a bearded man in his forties.
Leaders of Jewish Agency declaring the formation of Israel. No farts were reported.
The Arab League said no way, because they were being told again that their country was not under their control and they had to share. But the Jews said yes, because after the Holocaust you can bet they would say okay to anything, even if they had been given a birdhouse and told to live in it.

In 1948, the British gave up the area and the armies of four Arab countries—Egypt, Syria, Transjordan and Iraq—entered what had been British Mandatory Palestine, launching the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. Then things got really complex and that would be a really long story.

And a lot of people died, and continue to die, horribly and needlessly.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Footie World Cup : The History of FIFA

Even I know who Pele is.
I don't know much about football, or soccer to the barbarians in North America like me. I've been learning a lot as my mates at work extol the virtues of the very good look men, mostly with full heads of hair we've notice, that are shooting it out for the FIFA World Cup of 2014. Many are hard-core fans, who know every player, and have dragged me along on their enthusiasm. I cheered for Bosnia and Ecuador as my friends did, weep for Spain's humiliation, and cheered on Holland. 

But I have no idea about the history, or why my buddies were so passionate about this world cup.

First, a primer. FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) is a non governmental orgnaization, but governed by Swiss Law. (Those Swiss are pretty easy going I think so it would be pretty chill) It was started in 1904 because the increase in international matches led to many in Europe wanting an overall governing body. It was formed in Paris and France, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland all signed up. Germany soon joined after. This is interesting to me, as this time period everyone in Europe is sort of getting along, but very tentatively. England, after not wanting to join in at first, decided to join in a year later.

A great surprise to me, FIFA and the International Olympic Committee were in a pissing match with each other right from the start. Each wanted complete control over rights to stage football world championships. It took until 1920 for the two groups to agree and FIFA could even discuss having a world cup. The reason why FIFA wanted it so bad was, as FIFA governor Henri Delaunay stated:
"International [soccer] can no longer be held within the confines of the Olympics and many countries where professionalism is now recognized and organized cannot any longer be represented there by their best players."
The IOC finally relented and in 1928, planning began for the first World Cup in 1930. Uruguay was granted the first Cup as it knew how to sweeten the pot: it offered to pay for the other countries travel and hotel expenses, and they would build a band new stadium. To their delight, Uruguay also won the first world cup. Two more would be held until World War Two started and wrecked all the good times.

And the traditions of guys with great hair begins.

The World Cup started back up again in 1950 and is now held every four years, just like the Olympics. And just like the Olympics, politics and egos often got in the way.

1966:  England and West Germany were fighting it out in London. England won their first and only World Cup with a 4-2 after extra time. The controversy was that the third goal by the English hit the underside of the cross bar, bounced down on the line and was cleared. They officials deemed it good. much to many people's bitterness as they thought it broke the rule that it should go over the line, in their mind. People still whinge about it today.

1973:  The Soviet Union versus Chile was a political and sad nightmare. The two countries were vying for a spot for the play offs. They were supposed to play in November Santiago in their stadium, where two months before the new dictator of Chile Augusto Pinochet had executed people. the Soviets asked for a different venue, and when no one would agree to a move, they refused to take to the field, and were disqualified. The Chileans did show up to play. This shows to me that that team had some serious moral and ethical soccer balls and we should really hear more about this.

Prisoners at the stadium two months before the match: yeah, no.
Today, FIFA has 209 member associations with the goal of the constant improvement of football int eh world. It's mission is to develop football everywhere and for all, to organize inspiring tournaments, and care about society and the environment. as:
"Football is much more than just a game. Its universal appeal means it has a unique power and reach which must be managed carefully. We believe that we have a duty to society that goes beyond football: to improve the lives of young people and their surrounding communities, to reduce the negative impact of our activities and to make the most we can of the positives."
Sport versus social needs: so not everyone's a fan in Brazil?
Now, If you will excuse me, I need to see how Argentinians have done against the Netherlands. I'm sure there will be a pop quiz at work.

More on Football:

The politics of the sport and FIFA are discussed well at Soccer Politics

Check out more history at Sportsnet's great primer on the history of FIFA.

Here's a great list of every world cup winner at the football bible site.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

History Yahhoooooo: Question Round-Up

Not a fan of my stampede puns, or the dude riding him.
Howdy! It's that time's the Calgary Stampede! I like the music and the food mostly, but I also like the whole imagined west thing going on, and seeing the seniors in my community line up for another pancake breakfast with real happiness in their eyes!

In honour of the Stampede, I'm roping in some history questions asked by people about my hometown to me in recent weeks. First, the most obvious one:

When men wore real moustaches
Q: How old is the Calgary Stampede and how did it start?

The stampede celebrated it's 100th anniversary in 2012. The origin story of the stampede is pretty chill: no Michael Bay robots or epic battle scenes. Calgary was the host for the Dominion Exhibition in 1908. Government funds supported the construction of an exhibits building, the roofed grandstand, the livestock exhibits building and several barns. A local rancher, Guy Weadick, decided that these great building were perfect for a on-going rodeo. He approached four rich guys - Pat Burns, George Lane, A.E Cross and A.J. Maclean - and got financial backing to start the first “Frontier Days and Cowboy Championship Contest”in 1912. Because of World War I, the rodeo was not held again until 1919. It was called the Victory Stampede in honour of the end of World War I.

Q: My English teacher said Calgary’s nickname was ‘Cowtown’. Why is it called cowtown?

A: The name ‘Cowtown’ is because of Calgary’s ranching history. In the early days, Calgary was the centre of a large ranching community. These ranches were beef producers who had hundreds of cows that they raised. Also, there were a lot of cowboys that worked the ranches. They drove the cattle, meaning they moved them from place to place to eat the grass. Many communities today in Calgary were originally ranches, such as Midnapore and Ranchlands. However, Cowtown is an old nickname and not used very often. I'm very thankful for that because the stockyards were moved about 20 years ago out of town. You have no idea how bad they smelt.

Q: When was the LRT (Light Rail Transit) or C-train system built in Calgary?

A: Calgary was growing and the number of people using the bus system was growing. A study done by the City of Calgary in 1967 recommended a two-line train system. But it was put off due to cost until 1975 when the plans were drawn for the C-train. The first station and line opened in 1981. It needed to be done for the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, and it was. To my horror, some of the first train cars from back then are still running. Did I mention the old ones have no air conditioning?

Q: Why does Calgary have so many oil companies?

Where's my pancakes?
A: Huge reserves of oil were found in southern Alberta in 1947. Many new oil companies decided to make their main office in Calgary as it was the biggest city in the area. People moved from all over Canada and the world to work in the oil industry because there was more money and opportunities. Companies like Imperial Oil moved their head offices to Calgary in the 1990s because the city was so large and close to the oil and gas reserves and industry. Since then, the oil and gas companies make up for all the money they rip off the province by hosting pancake breakfasts, because nothing makes a Canadian forget what's wrong with the world than a free piece of fried dough.

Q: When did Calgary get a hockey team, the Calgary Flames?

A: The team was actually founded in Atlanta, Georgia, USA in 1972. The team struggled there to gain supporters, and the owner wanted to sell the team. The team was bought by Canadian businessman Nelson Skalbaniawere. The city and local businesses made it appealing to the new owners to move to Calgary as they were going to have a new arena built for the, the Saddledome. Their original logo - seen here - was ditched for basically the same thing, just a C instead.

Q: Someone told me that you don’t have to go outside in the winter if you work downtown Calgary because of the Plus 15 (+15) system. What is that?

A: The Plus 15 system is a series of bridges or skywalks that connect buildings in the downtown area 15 feet above street level. In the late 1960s, city planner Harold Hanen designed a system where people could access all the other buildings but avoid the cold wind and winter of Calgary. Opened first in 1970, it is now 16 kilometres long, and has currently 59 bridges.

I wasn't kidding when I said it was a shed.
 Q: What is the oldest building in Calgary

A tiny, rundown shed — part of the Hudson's Bay fur trading post — is Calgary's oldest building but a lack of funding and time are working against its preservation. The Hunt House was built in 1876 on the east side of the Elbow River, using logs floated down the waterway. It served as a cabin home to an official with the Hudson's Bay Company. It currently sits behind Fort Calgary's Deane House restaurant in the southeast neighbourhood of Inglewood. William Hunt lived in the house until the mid-'70s when he willed the property to the city. His beautiful garden also still remains. Since then, it has sat untouched as a storage shed until this year, when the Fort Calgary historical society has begun a major restoration.