LADY MARY WORTLEY MONTAGU
Any idea what being an 18th century feminist might entail? Look no further than Power Woman Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689 - 1762)! She defied convention by “stealing” her education, becoming (arguably) the first female travel writer, and introducing smallpox inoculation to Western medicine.
Following her husband’s appointment as Ambassador to Istanbul, Lady Mary had unique, personal interactions with Ottoman women. Through her written personal observations, she set the record straight on (male) misconceptions about Turkish women in terms of tradition, fashion, religion, treatment and liberties - at times more of a critique on Western culture.
Most notably she was a proponent of inoculation against smallpox. Back in England, the medical establishment was suspect of this Eastern “folk treatment”. She famously publicized the inoculation of her daughter when a smallpox epidemic struck England. The controversial treatment was further tested, overcoming the skeptics the following year.
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, depicted in Turkish splendor by Achille Devéria, can be seen at London’s @NationalPortraitGallery ©National Portrait Gallery