Women's Business: 17th-Century Female Pharmacists

Early Italian Pharmacy, CHF Collections

Early Italian Pharmacy, Italian School, 17th century; oil on canvas. Gift of Fisher Scientific International.

Anne Crosse

In 1642 the Society of Apothecaries of London ordered Thomas Clarges, “an unlawful worker” at Anne Crosse’s shop, to stop working as an apothecary. Crosse, the widow of a wealthy apothecary named Thomas Crosse, had inherited the apothecary shop upon her husband’s death in 1641. Apparently Anne Crosse, unlike Widow Wycke and Susan Lyon, was not considered sufficiently qualified to supervise an apprentice. Instead, the Apothecaries allowed Anne Crosse to run her shop and train her apprentice with the help of journeyman apothecary John Rogers. She agreed to pay Rogers £10 per year and to provide him with room and board. In 1646 the Apothecaries examined the apprentice, Clarges, and admitted him as an apothecary.

Anne Crosse may have been unable to pass the examination qualifying her to run the shop, but her rejection may also be explained as retaliation against her new husband, Thomas Cademan, by the Society of Apothecaries. During the 1620s the College of Physicians prosecuted Cademan, for practicing medicine without their approval, although the physicians eventually admitted him to their professional society in 1630. In 1639 Cademan helped found the Company of Distillers of London, with Cademan its First Master. The Distillers produced medicines in direct competition with the Apothecaries. Since the Society of Apothecaries had unsuccessfully tried to prevent the Company of Distillers from setting up its own guild, the Apothecaries no doubt had strong objections to Cademan running an apothecary shop.

The Roman Catholic Cademan had been physician to the Catholic Queen Henrietta Maria before she fled to Europe during the English Civil War. Anne Crosse Cademan apparently continued with her Royalist sympathies. After Cademan’s death in 1651, she married Sir William Davenant, a playwright from Oxford said to be William Shakespeare’s godson. Davenant had lost part of his nose to syphilis, although he had recovered after treatments by Cademan. Davenant wrote plays for the king and queen before the Civil War and served in the Royalist army during the war. In 1643 he was knighted by Charles I for “loyalty and poetry.” After the king’s beheading, Dowager Queen Henrietta Maria sent Davenant on missions to help restore the monarchy for her son, Charles II. Imprisoned in the Tower of London for his activities, Davenant was freed in 1652. Ann Crosse Cademan married him shortly after his release and enjoyed three years of marriage before her death in 1655.

Judith S. Woolf is the pen name of a chemist with experience in chemical education. Woolf’s interest in the history of women in chemistry developed from her interest in antique cookery books written by and for women.