Nielsine Nielsen (1850-1916), qualified as a physician in 1885

Art by Emily Wells (tumblr)

In January 1874, a governess and private tutor named Nielsine Nielsen petitioned the Danish government for a place at the University of Copenhagen.  At that time, no Danish university admitted female students but public opinion was beginning to favor greater rights for women.  In 1875, a royal decree from King Christian IX opened Danish universities to women.  Nielsine was one of the first two female students to enroll.  She graduated as Denmark’s first female physician in 1885.

Nielsine planned to specialize in gynecology, but she could not secure a position at a Danish hospital because the country’s only gynecologist (F. Howitz) objected to her appointment.  Instead, Nielsine opened a private practice.  Eventually, she became a well-respected physician.  In 1906, Nielsine was named as an expert in sexually transmitted infections by the Copenhagen government.

“To yield to pleasure and suffering would be like a moth flying into a flame - but to reject and ignore pleasure and pain would be to walk through life in a blindfold.”

Quote by Bruce Charlton (2015), painting by John Maler Collier (27 January 1850 – 11 April 1934).

Large (Wikimedia)

Frederic Leighton painted A Boy Defending a Baby from an Eagle in around 1850.

Leighton’s pyramidal composition—baby sleeping at one corner, boy winding up with his sickle at another, and eagle at the pinnacle—makes this dramatic scene even more dynamic. He emphasizes the three corners of the work by the setting. A grassy field implies the infant’s natural innocence; the field stands testament to the boy’s earnest industry; and a threatening sky full of storm clouds frames the equally wild eagle.

Despite the emphasis on nature, the painting nonetheless betrays a little bit of wider human context. As he often does, Leighton sets this painting in the past. The boy, is dressed in an eighteenth-century coat and short pants, his tricorne cast off beside the little picnic in the grass.