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What witches have to do with women’s health

I recently attended a lunch with a group of women to talk about food and health. I’d come to the conclusion that my health would be better served doing this than talking to my doctor. He was unable to answer questions about studies that included women participants and how the findings might differ from the research he was citing, all of which only studied men. I now have a new doctor and we get along just fine.

Less than 400 years ago, I, and every woman at that lunch with me, might very well have eaten our heart-healthy meal then been merrily immolated as a coven of witches. There we were, taking about herbs and using our senses to achieve healthy outcomes. Maybe salad dressing is a potion. Who knows.

As Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English explain in the 2010 revision to their classic book “Witches, Midwives & Nurses,” between the 14th and the 17th centuries, tens of thousands of people were killed as witches. Estimates range, but the latest scholarship puts the number at roughly 100,000 people, 80-85 percent of them women. By the mid-16th century there were villages where all but one woman had been killed for practicing witchcraft.

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