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Women's medical wisdom in the age of witchery: Dorothy Bulkeley Treat and hermetic alchemy, A call for narrative research

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Abstract

The experiences of New England’s early cleric-physicians, such as the Rev. Gershom Bulkeley of Connecticut have been extensively explored within the scholarship of witch hysteria and the emergence of modern clinical medicine within the specific context of alchemy; however, Bulkeley’s only daughter, Dorothy Bulkeley Treat’s experiences with alchemy, scientific knowledge, and clinical practice, inextricably tied to seventeenth century work of early cleric-physicians, have been mentioned only briefly within the literature and these experiences deserve and warrant further attention and this woman’s perspective cannot remain overlooked. With recent digitization of two original medical journals, future research is warranted to include a qualitative narrative research study to explore the specific contributions of one prominent New England woman that may ensure a more complete perspective of women’s roles and social contributions in an incremental period as well as the evolution of alchemy to scientific knowledge to clinical practice beyond a limited male-focused historiography.
19th Annual American Association of Behavioral and Social Sciences Conference
Women’s medical wisdom in the age of witchery: Dorothy Bulkeley Treat and hermetic alchemy
A call for narrative research
Robin Throne, Ph.D. rthrone@ncu.edu
School of Education, Northcentral University
Abstract
The experiences of New England’s early cleric-physicians, such as the Rev. Gershom Bulkeley of Connecticut
have been extensively explored within the scholarship of witch hysteria and the emergence of modern clinical
medicine within the specific context of alchemy; however, Bulkeley’s only daughter, Dorothy Bulkeley Treat’s
experiences with alchemy, scientific knowledge, and clinical practice, inextricably tied to seventeenth century
work of early cleric-physicians, have been mentioned only briefly within the literature and these experiences
deserve and warrant further attention and this woman’s perspective cannot remain overlooked. With recent
digitization of two original medical journals, future research is warranted to include a qualitative narrative
research study to explore the specific contributions of one prominent New England woman that may ensure a
more complete perspective of women’s roles and social contributions in an incremental period as well as the
evolution of alchemy to scientific knowledge to clinical practice beyond a limited male-focused historiography.
Throne, R. (2016, February 1). Women’s medical wisdom in the age of witchery: Dorothy Bulkeley Treat and
hermetic alchemy, a call for narrative research. 19th Annual American Association of Behavioral and
Social Sciences Conference, Las Vegas.
19th Annual American Association of Behavioral and Social Sciences Conference
Description
The experiences of New England’s early cleric-
physicians, such as the Rev. Gershom Bulkeley of
Connecticut (son of Peter Bulkeley, the ancestor from
England and founder of Concord, MA), have been
extensively explored within the scholarship of witch
hysteria and the emergence of modern clinical medicine
within the context of European and early American
alchemy; however, Bulkeley’s only daughter, Dorothy
Bulkeley Treat’s (1662-1757) experiences with alchemy,
scientific knowledge, and clinical practice, which was
inextricably tied to the seventeenth century work of early
cleric-physicians, have been mentioned only briefly
within the literature and these experiences deserve and
warrant further attention. Some scholars have noted the
key role of alchemy in the emergence of scientific
knowledge and early scientific medicine, an emergence
never far from the English scientific community. The
Rev. Bulkeley was well connected among these
practitioners of his time and in his compilation of the
immense library of original volumes, or hand-copied
works of imminent thought abroad, was later acquired
by Dorothy via the inheritance of her son, Richard, who
also became a cleric-physician (Jodziewicz, 1988;
Woodward, 2010). In circumspect, Dorothy, as an
illustrative woman’s perspective, cannot remain
overlooked.
Dorothy Bulkeley Treat was also the wife of
Lieutenant Thomas Treat, the heir of Nyaug from his
grandfather Richard Treat (the ancestor from Pitminster,
England, to the Massachusetts Bay Colony and settled
Wethersfield, CT) (Jodziewicz, 1987). Her mother was
Sarah Chauncy, the daughter of Harvard president and
alchemist, Charles Chauncy (Steiner, 1904), and her
experiences were informed by her father’s close
association with Connecticut Governor and alchemist
John Winthrop, Jr., as both held a vested interest in
separating “the devil” or diabolical from the alchemical,
which they viewed as current science and appropriate
natural magic (Brekus, 2009; Woodward, 2003, 2010). It
is said the Rev. Bulkeley died in the Treat home in
Glastonbury seventeen months after Dorothy’s husband
Thomas passed, which led to the codicil to execute her
father’s will (Jodziewicz, 1987).
Connecticut herbalists, such as the infamous
Katherine Harrison, whose work fueled a major Hartford
witch trial from 1661-1663, were epitomized as
demonstrating social control via healing afflictions
exacerbated by the possession of a widow’s wealth that
threatened neighbors and led to accusations of witchcraft
(Connell, 2011; Woodward, 2003). Harrison’s death
sentence was overturned by Governor Winthrop who
eventually ended Connecticut executions of accused
witches in spite of his personal belief in the possibility of
witchcraft (Woodward, 2003), and ushered in an era of
skepticism (Connell, 2011; Norman-Eady & Bernier,
2006; Woodward, 2003).
A mere child at the time of Harrison’s trial in which
her father was notably involved in the subsequent state’s
evidentiary requirement for “simultaneous witnessing”
(Norman-Eady & Bernier, 2006; Woodward, 2003),
Dorothy later as a widow, quietly and without further
scandal, yet likely amid great risk as a woman,
administered medical care to her neighbors in
Glastonbury across the river from Wethersfield. This
was, of course, after the contentious battle over her
father’s will with her brother, John (Jodziewicz, 1988;
Woodward, 2010), who claimed Dorothy forced her
son’s interest in medicine so that she could control her
father’s library and equipment; however, past scholars
have noted that it was likely primarily used by Dorothy
(Woodward, 2010). As executrix of her father’s estate by
codicil (Jodziewicz, 1987, 1988), and one of few women
who gained insights into alchemy, early chemistry, and
seventeenth century clinical practice thanks to the
abundant library of books and manuscripts often hand
copied during his extensive travel abroad, Dorothy
shared her father’s interest in alchemical healing
(Woodward, 2010).
While her father’s work as a cleric-physician and
royal loyalist has been well documented (Goodheart,
2002; Poteet, 1974; Ranlet, 2009; Steiner, 1904;
Woodward, 2003, 2010), Dorothy’s clinical practice and
alchemical knowledge has been given less attention and
may warrant further inquiry as two of Dorothy’s primary
medical journals reside within the Bulkeley manuscript
collections at two research libraries within the Hartford,
Connecticut, area. The first manuscript resides at the
Hartford Medical Society Historical Library (HMS) at
the Lyman Maynard Stowe Library at the UConn Health
Center, Farmington, CT, and the second manuscript
resides at the Watkinson Library, a public research
library within the Raether Library and Information
Technology Center at Trinity College, Hartford, CT.
According to HMS Librarian, Jennifer Miglus, the
first manuscript, her booke (see Figure 1) (Treat, 1721),
has been slated for digitization at the UConn university
libraries in Storrs, CT (J. Miglus, personal
communication, August 17, 2015). Due to the generosity
of a library patron and special collections assistant
Henry Arneth, the second manuscript, Dorothy’s earlier
journal (Treat, 1705) was digitized in 2014 (H. Arneth,
personal communication, April 8, 2015; Woodward,
2010) (see Figure 2) (Treat, 1705). The digitization and
exploration of these two primary medical journals is
necessary to better understand the lived experiences and
19th Annual American Association of Behavioral and Social Sciences Conference
perspective of a woman medical practitioner in
seventeenth and eighteenth century New England, and
may provide the basis for narrative inquiry of the
unexplored nature of wisdom, alchemy, scientific
knowledge, and early medicine from one woman’s
experience (Woodward, 2010)
1
.
The record of Dorothy’s consumption of her father’s
knowledge and literature of alchemical science, as with
other women’s experiences and contributions to early
colonial medicine, has been incomplete. Inquiry into and
examination of these manuscripts may uncover
contributions to the emergence of modern medicine as
researchers have noted women’s contributions to early
American medicine remain incomplete and warrant
further inquiry (Appel, 2014; Green, 2008). Future
research should include a qualitative narrative research
study to explore these archival primary journals of a
daughter of an influential colonist, cleric-physician,
alchemist, and a key influencer in the termination of
witch executions in Connecticut, perhaps another
paradox within the context of Dorothy’s unique lived
experience. Narrative research may also allow for a
continued exploration and potential discovery of other
primary documents to examine these specific
contributions of one prominent New England woman
that may ensure a more complete perspective of
women’s roles and social contributions in an incremental
period as well as the evolution of alchemy to scientific
knowledge to clinical practice beyond a learned,
predominantly upper-class white male (Satterstrom,
2004) historiography.
Acknowledgments
Special thanks to Northcentral University for the academic
honoraria in support of the initial 2015 research visit to the
Connecticut Bulkeley manuscript collections; HMS/UConn
for scheduling digitization of the Bulkeley manuscripts; and to
the Watkinson Library for earlier digitization of Dorothy’s
journal that allows for electronic narrative analysis of these
historic documents.
References
Appel, T. A. (2014). Writing women into medical history in the
1930s: Kate Campbell Hurd-Mead and “medical women”
of the past and present. Bulletin of the History of Medicine ,
88(3), 457-92.
Brekus, C. A. (2009). The religious history of American women:
Reimagining the past. Chapel Hill: University of North
Carolina Press.
Connell, L. (2011). ‘A great or notorious liar’: Katherine Harrison
and her neighbours, Wethersfield, Connecticut, 1668-1670.
Eras, 12(2), 1-29.
Goodheart, L. B. (2002). The distinction between witchcraft and
madness in colonial Connecticut. History of Psychiatry, 13,
433-444.
Green, M. H. (2008). Gendering the history of women’s healthcare.
Gender & History, 20(3), 487-518.
Jodziewicz, T. W. (1987). The 1699 diary of Gershom Bulkeley of
Wethersfield, Connecticut. Proceedings of the American
Philosophical Society, 131(4), 425-441.
Jodziewicz, T. W. (1988). A stranger in the land: Gershom Bulkeley
of Connecticut. Transactions of the American
Philosophical Society, 78(2), i-vii+1-106.
Norman-Eady, S., & Bernier, J. (2006). Connecticut witch trials and
posthumous pardons. Connecticut General Assembly.
Hartford, CT: Office of Legislative Research.
Poteet, J. M. (1974). A homecoming: The Bulkeley family in New
England. The New England Quarterly , 47(1), 30-50.
Ranlet, P. (2009). A safe haven for witches? Colonial New York's
politics and relations with New England in the 1690s. New
York History, 90(1/2), 37-57.
Satterstrom, F. K. (2004). Alchemy and alchemical knowledge in
seventeenth-century New England. Cambridge, MA:
Honors Thesis Harvard University.
Speare, E. G. (1958). The witch of Blackbird Pond. New York:
Houghton Mifflin.
Steiner, W. R. (1904). The Reverend Gershom Bulkeley of
Connecticut, an eminent clerical physician. Medical
Library and Historical Journal, 2(2), 91-103.
Throne, R. (2016, February). Women’s medical wisdom in the age of
witchery: Dorothy Bulkeley Treat and hermetic alchemy, a
call for narrative research. Poster session presented at
the 19th Annual American Association of Behavioral and
Social Sciences Conference, Las Vegas, NV.
Throne, R. (2016, April). Women’s medical wisdom in the age of
witchery: Dorothy Bulkeley Treat and hermetic alchemy, a
call for narrative research. Presentation at the 2016 Summit
on Women, Gender, and Well-Being, University of
Wisconsin-Madison.
Treat, D. (1705). Dorothy Bulkeley Treat, 1705. Unpublished
manuscript, box 2. Hartford, CT: Trinity College
Watkinson Library.
Treat, D. (1721). Dorothy Bulkeley Treat her booke, 1721.
Unpublished manuscript, #11. Farmington, CT: Hartford
Medical Society Historical Library.
Woodward, W. W. (2003). New England's other witch-hunt: The
Hartford Witch-Hunt of the 1660s and changing witchcraft
prosecution. OAH Magazine of History, 17(4), 16-20.
Woodward, W. W. (2010). Prospero's America: John Winthrop, Jr.,
alchemy, and the creation of New England culture, 1607-
1676. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
1
Woodward (2010) cited Patricia A. Watson’s report of a third manuscript from the
Watkinson Bulkeley collection entitled “Medical Cabinet” that may also be in Dorothy’s
own handwriting and emphasized the secrecy of alchemical research (p. 205).
Recommendations for future research should include this third manuscript.
Robin Throne, Ph.D.
School of Education, Northcentral University
Women’s medical wisdom in the age of witchery: Dorothy Bulkeley Treat & hermetic alchemy
A call for narrative research
Acknowledgments
Northcentral University research honorarium
Hartford Medical Society Library/UConn
Watkinson Research Library, Trinity College
Next Steps
Complete digitization
Data collection
OCR processing
Data preparation, coding, and excerpting
Kleining & Witt’s qualitative heuristic analysis
Dorothy Bulkeley Treat (1662-1757)
Dorothy Bulkeley Treat’s (1662-1757) experiences with
alchemy, scientific knowledge, and clinical practice,
which was inextricably tied to the seventeenth century
work of early cleric-physicians, have been mentioned
only briefly within the literature and these experiences
deserve and warrant further attention. Some scholars
have noted the key role of alchemy in the emergence of
scientific knowledge and early scientific medicine, an
emergence never far from the English scientific
community. Her father, the Rev. Gershom Bulkeley was
well connected among these practitioners of his time
and in his compilation of the immense library of original
volumes, or hand-copied works of imminent thought
abroad, was later acquired by Dorothy via the
inheritance of her son, Richard, who also became a
cleric-physician (Jodziewicz, 1988; Woodward, 2010).
Her mother was Sarah Chauncy, the daughter of
Harvard president and alchemist, Charles Chauncy
(Steiner, 1904), and her experiences were informed by
her father’s close association with Connecticut
Governor and alchemist John Winthrop, Jr. In
circumspect, Dorothy, as an illustrative woman’s
perspective, cannot remain overlooked.
Abstract
The experiences of New England’s early cleric-
physicians, such as the Rev. Gershom Bulkeley of
Connecticut have been extensively explored within
the scholarship of witch hysteria and the
emergence of modern clinical medicine within the
specific context of alchemy; however, Bulkeley’s
only daughter, Dorothy Bulkeley Treat’s
experiences with alchemy, scientific knowledge,
and clinical practice, inextricably tied to
seventeenth century work of early cleric-
physicians, have been mentioned only briefly
within the literature and these experiences
deserve and warrant further attention and this
woman’s perspective cannot remain overlooked.
With recent digitization of two original medical
journals, future research is warranted to include a
qualitative narrative research study to explore the
specific contributions of one prominent New
England woman that may ensure a more complete
perspective of women’s roles and social
contributions in an incremental period as well as
the evolution of alchemy to scientific knowledge to
clinical practice beyond a limited male-focused
historiography.
Archival Medical Journals
The first manuscript, her booke (see Figure 1 below)
has been slated for digitization at the UConn
university libraries in Storrs, CT. Due to the generosity
of a library patron and a special collections assistant,
the second manuscript, Dorothy’s earlier journal
(Treat, 1705) was digitized in 2014) (see Figure 2
below). The digitization and exploration of these two
primary medical journals is necessary to better
understand the lived experiences and perspective of
a woman medical practitioner in seventeenth and
eighteenth century New England, and may provide
the basis for narrative inquiry of the unexplored
nature of wisdom, alchemy, scientific knowledge, and
colonial medicine from one woman’s experience
(Woodward, 2010).
Narrative Research
Future research should include a qualitative narrative
research study to explore these archival primary
journals of a daughter of an influential colonist, cleric-
physician, alchemist, and a key influencer in the
termination of witch executions in Connecticut,
perhaps another paradox within the context of
Dorothy’s unique lived experience. Narrative research
may also allow for a continued exploration and
potential discovery of other primary documents to
examine these specific contributions of one prominent
New England woman that may ensure a more
complete perspective of women’s roles and social
contributions in an incremental period as well as the
evolution of alchemy to scientific knowledge to clinical
practice beyond a “learned, predominantly upper-
class white male” (Satterstrom, 2004) historiography.
17th Century Alchemy
& Scientific Medicine
The record of Dorothy’s consumption of her father’s
knowledge and literature of alchemical science, as with
other women’s experiences and contributions to early
colonial medicine, has been incomplete. Inquiry into and
examination of these manuscripts may uncover
contributions to the emergence of modern medicine as
researchers have noted women’s contributions to early
American medicine remain incomplete and warrant
further inquiry (Appel, 2014; Green, 2008). Future
research should include a qualitative narrative research
study to explore these archival primary journals of a
daughter of an influential colonist, cleric-physician,
alchemist, and a key influencer in the termination of witch
executions in Connecticut, perhaps another paradox
within the context of Dorothy’s unique lived experience.
Hartford Medical Society Historical Library: Gershom Bulkeley manuscripts
Figure 2. Manuscript
2: Dorothy (Bulkeley)
Treat 1705. A second
primary journal by
Dorothy Bulkeley Treat
resides at the
Watkinson Library, a
public research library
within the Raether
Library and Information
Technology Center at
Trinity College,
Hartford, CT. This
journal has been
digitized for future
research. Used with
permission, Watkinson
Library, Trinity College,
Hartford, Connecticut.
Figure 1.
Manuscript 1: Dorothy
Treat’s Her Booke.
One original medical
journal of Dorothy
Bulkeley Treat resides
at the Hartford Medical
Society Library within
the Lyman Maynard
Stowe Library at the
UConn Health Center,
Farmington, CT.
Courtesy of the
Hartford Medical
Society Historical
Library, University of
Connecticut Health
Center, Farmington,
CT.
.
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Brekus, C. A. (2009). The religious history of American women: Reimagining the past. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
A great or notorious liar': Katherine Harrison and her neighbours
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