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Early Modern Green Sickness and Pre-Freudian Hysteria

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In early modern medicine, both green sickness (or chlorosis) and hysteria were understood to be gendered diseases, diseases of women. Green sickness, a disease of young women, was considered so serious that John Graunt, the father of English statistics, thought that in his time dozens of women died of it in London every year. One of the symptoms of hysteria was that women fell unconscious. The force of etymology and medical tradition was so strong that in one instance the gender of the patient seems to have been changed by the recorder to make the case fit medical theory.

Affiliations: 1: Department of English, University of California, 1 Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA


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