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Lady Mary Wortley Montagu- Writer (1689 - 1762)

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu was an English aristocrat and writer. Montagu is today chiefly remembered for her letters, particularly her letters from Turkey, published as Turkish Embassy Letters. They have been described as “the very first example of a secular work by a woman about the Muslim Orient”. Lady Mary avoided publication during her lifetime. However, her letters from Turkey were clearly intended for circulation among members of her own social circle, and she revised them extensively after her return. Montagu's Turkish letters were to prove an inspiration to later generations of European women travellers to the Orient.

She also introduced the practice of inoculation into England ( in the 1790s, Edward Jenner developed a safer method, vaccination). Her husband, Edward Wortley Montagu, served as the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1716 to 1717. She witnessed inoculation being practiced by physicians in Constantinople, and was greatly impressed: she had lost a brother to smallpox and bore facial scars from the disease herself. In March 1718 she had the embassy surgeon, Charles Maitland, inoculate her five-year-old son. In 1721, after returning to England, she had her four-year-old daughter inoculated. She invited friends to see her daughter, including Sir Hans Sloane, the King's physician. Sufficient interest arose that Maitland gained permission to test inoculation at Newgate prison in exchange for their freedom on six prisoners due to be hanged, an experiment which was witnessed by a number of notable doctors. All survived, and in 1722 the Prince of Wales' daughters received inoculations.

However by 1724 doctors and clergy were warning that inoculating people against smallpox contravened the will of God. The London College of Physicians condemned the practice as taking the power of life and death out of God's hands!



Wijngaards Institute for Catholic ResearchThis website is maintained by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.

The Institute is known for issuing academic reports and statements on relevant issues in the Church. These have included scholars' declarations on the need of collegiality in the exercise of church authority, on the ethics of using contraceptives in marriage and the urgency of re-instating the sacramental diaconate of women.

Visit also our websites:Women Deacons, The Body is Sacred and Mystery and Beyond.

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