Article ID: CBB959700446

Joanna Stephens and the Stone: credibility economy in the history of medicine (2023)


In 1740, Joanna Stephens (fl. 1720–1741) produced a recipe for a tonic that she claimed cured bladder stones. Although she had the support of some notable and powerful men in the medical community and empirical evidence that her tonic worked, it took two years of petitioning, discussing, and even (unsuccessfully) crowd-sourcing before Parliament relented and awarded her the sum she requested to take her tonic public. Stephens’s interaction with the scientific community serves as a case study for how epistemic credibility shapes how communities hear, interpret, and react to testimonies of knowledge claims from marginalized community members. Stephens’s position as an outsider, both qua woman and qua experimentalist, meant that she was effectively and almost immediately written out of her own story by learned and powerful men with who had both vested interests in the cure for the stone and epistemic prejudices that made it impossible for them to hear Stephens’s claim that she had made a discovery.

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Authors & Contributors
Sweet, Helen M.
Hawkins, Sue
Heasim Sul
Mr Anthony C. Cartwright
Brooks, Jane
Watts, Ruth
Women's History Review
Journal of the History of the Neurosciences
Social History of Medicine
Korean Journal of Medical History
Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences
History of Education
Universidad de Huelva (Spain)
University of Pennsylvania Press
University of Massachusetts Press
Manchester University Press
Ashgate Publishing
Women in medicine
Nurses and nursing
Discovery in medicine
Physicians; doctors
Jenner, Edward
Blackwell, Elizabeth
Time Periods
19th century
20th century
20th century, early
18th century
17th century
21st century
Great Britain
Birmingham (England)
United States
North America
Medical Women's Federation (Great Britain)

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