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Commentary
Nov 2011

Maria Petrocini Ferretti, the First Female Surgeon in Florence, Italy

Arch Surg. 2011;146(11):1231-1232. doi:10.1001/archsurg.2011.276

The history of women in medicine and surgery has its roots in ancient times; very often, the road has been paved with difficulties. The rise in women applying to medical school began only in the 1970s due to the increase in the number of medical schools, the women's rights movement, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, and the growing number of “baby boomer girls” who were finishing college.1 A recent discovery in the archives of the Biomedical Library of the University of Florence allows us to shed light on this difficult path of professional growth.2 The manuscript belongs to the Proceedings of the Florentine Medical College, a corporative institution dating back to the 13th century, empowered to give individuals permission to officially practice medicine and surgery in Tuscany from 1560 through the second half of the 19th century (Figure 1 and Figure 2). In these documents, many names of midwives occur; in fact, every health care practitioner, not only physicians and surgeons, had to apply to take the qualifying examinations. A striking element in this documentation concerns Maria Petrocini Ferretti (1759-1791).

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