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Women’s Weeds: The hidden history of women in medicine

Friday 7 July to Saturday 30 September 2023 | Free - Gardens Through Time

Women’s Weeds is an audio installation in our Gardens Through Time by Dr Romany Reagan, exploring the complex ways in which women contributed to science and why their stories have been lost.

Women’S Weeds (Instagram Post (Square)

Covering 600 years, four distinct themes, and 20 separate stories, Women’s Weeds shares the complex ways in which women have contributed towards scientific achievements and the cultural context of how and why many of their stories have been lost.    

This history is not about heroes or one or two stand-out women. Countless women did the work of healing within their families and sharing knowledge within their communities. These handed-down heritages of healing were part of oral traditions and not written down. The fragments that remain do not tell the whole story. We can grasp at snippets, but the real story is massive, complex, silent, ubiquitous.

Beginning in the Herb Garden, we explore the cunning women and magical midwives of Mediaeval Europe in the time of the witch trials. Next, the visitor is guided to the Knot Garden and 1600s Stuart Garden, where we learn of the herbal books and kitchen physic of the Early Modern Herbal Healers. Our next journey will be a difficult one. We enter the 1700s garden and delve into the darkness of Colonial Botany. It is here where we discover the Amerindian and African stories of the colonial West Indies. We emerge from this experience into the Victorian feminist fight for equality in scientific recognition and education.  

Our 600-year journey then ends with you—what will you do with what you’ve learned when you step out of our garden and back onto the bustling streets of our modern world?   

How to listen

  • Listen to the installation in your browser on Dr Romany Reagan's website, Blackthorn & Stone.
  • Listen on Bloomberg Connects, our fully accessible digital guide (transcripts available). Simply download the free app today to start listening (iOS or Android).

Engage with the stories on your own time, at your own pace. Audio offers privacy to feel what these stories might bring up and mean for you. Audio is also invisible. The women in these stories have been invisible, but now they will live on in your mind and imagination.

Dried herbs hang from a rack Landis Brown

About Dr Romany Reagan

Romany Reagan is an Arts Council England funded research fellow with Museum of the Home in London, studying the hidden histories of women in medicine—from mediaeval cunning women to the 19th-century feminist fight for education. Her exhibition Women's Weeds will run this summer at the Museum of the Home, July-September 2023. Romany received her doctorate from Royal Holloway, University of London in Performing Heritage in 2018. Her practice-based thesis explored the layers of heritage within Abney Park cemetery, which led to a study of the occult literary heritage of Stoke Newington, ‘earth mystery’ psychogeography, and folklore. Since completion of her PhD, Romany has documented her ongoing research into dark heritage, lost histories, and place-based folklore and legends on her blog Blackthorn & Stone. Her audio walks through various sites in London are available on SoundCloud.   

Related events

Installation launch

Come join us for the launch of Women’s Weeds, an audio installation By Dr Romany Reagan, presented within our lovely Gardens Through Time.   

Friday 7 July 2023 6pm to 8pm 

Pomander Workshop

Join us for a free Pomander making workshop, hosted by the Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garret

Saturday 19 August 1pm to 5pm 

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The Apothecary in the Attic & the Herbal Woman

Tales from the Herb Garret of the Old St Thomas' Hospital, a stimulating talk with Dr Monica Walker uncovering the hidden histories of The Herb Garret. 

Saturday 19 August, 6.30pm to 8.30pm   

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Secrets of Mediaeval Healers with Dr. Romany Reagan

Join us at the Museum for the closing of our Women's Weeds audio installation. Hear Dr. Romany Reagan give her insight into how women discovered and shared healing practices during the late mediaeval and early modern eras.

Saturday 30 September, 6pm to 8pm

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