Immaculate Forms

A History of the Female Body in Four Parts


By Helen King

Formats and Prices




$45.00 CAD

The turbulent history of women’s bodies, from classical Greece to the modern day

Breasts, clitoris, hymen, and womb. Across history, these body parts have told women who they are and what they should do. Although knowledge of each part has changed through time, none of them tells a simple story. The way they work and in some cases even their existence have been debated. They can be seen as powerful or as disgusting, as relevant only to reproduction or as sources of sexual pleasure.  
In Immaculate Forms, classicist and historian Helen King explores the symbiotic relationship between religion and medicine and their twinned history of gatekeeping over these key organs that have been used to define “woman,” illustrating how conceptions of women’s bodies have owed more to imagination and myth than to observation and science. Throughout history, the way we understand the body has always been debated, and it is still shaped by human intervention and read according to cultural interpretations.  
Astute and engaging, Immaculate Forms is for everyone who has wondered what history has to say about today’s raging debates over the human body and who is “really” female.
Request Desk/Exam Copy


On Sale
Jan 28, 2025
Page Count
496 pages
Basic Books

Helen King

About the Author

Helen King is Professor Emerita of Classical Studies at The Open University. She is an elected member of the General Synod of the Church of England, where she is vice chair of Together, which campaigns on a range of discrimination issues including discrimination on the grounds of gender or sexuality. She is the author of Hippocrates’ Woman and has published extensively on the history of women’s health. She lives in Oxfordshire, England. 

Learn more about this author