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Designing Women: Midwives, Class, and Choice

A couple of weeks ago The New York Times ran an article that asked its readers, “are midwives becoming trendy, like juice cleanses and Tom’s shoes?” Turns out, yes. At least for “the famous and the fashionable.”

Although the article highlights an increased social acceptance of midwifery, the idea of midwives as being the marker of social status seems to diminish its value somewhat. My midwife, I thought, was an advocate, not…a fashion accessory. Still, the Times piece got me thinking. What might it mean that midwives have become the newest trend for the trendy? Does mainstreaming midwifery ultimately lead to increased access to it, or serve to privilege it to an already privileged class of people? In a weird way, I think the Times article put a finger on something I have been wondering for some time now: Is American midwifery gaining legitimacy primarily through its association with affluent white women? And if so…does that matter?

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Sunday Morning Medicine

The computer your viewing this on was brought to you by a gay man.
Want to date like it's 1938? Here's a handy guide!
The long (and quite technical) history of the espresso machine.
The very first drinking song discovered?
The mystery of Dolly Madison's red dress.
Were nuns too sexy in the Middle Ages?

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Better Babies, Fitter Families, and Toddlers and Tiaras: Eugenics in American History

Once upon a time (about two months ago) a group of academics/activists got together to start Nursing Clio, a collaborative blog project that aimed to engage with historical scholarship as a means to contextualize present-day political, social, and cultural issues surrounding gender and medicine. To be honest with you, dear readers (all 5 of you), in the planning stages I sometimes doubted whether we would have enough present-day material to continue the blog past the first month. What if we ran out of material? What if we said everything we needed to say? I made sure to make a list of emergency blog post ideas just in case we got desperate.

As it turns out, we have never once had to break into the emergency blog post survival kit. Between the North Carolina preacher who invoked the Holocaust in an anti-gay sermon, to the continuing War on Women, to the new movie Hysteria – our gender, medicine, and history cup runneth over, my friends.

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Sunday Morning Medicine

Even Batgirl supports the ERA.
Menstrual huts protect against adultery.
An update on the man cured from AIDS.
Shocking information about women and HIV.

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Finding Satisfaction: A Review of Hysteria

Having researched and delivered conference papers on the topic, the medical historian in me danced a little jig when I heard Sony Pictures Classics was releasing a movie called “Hysteria.” I did, however, enter the theater with some reservations. Motion picture portrayals are notorious for being historically inaccurate, and if films are true to history, those not in the field tend to find it a little, well, boring. (That is unless Werner Herzog is narrating it with his dry but inadvertently humorous observations.) Thankfully, the $7.50 spent on a matinee wasn’t a waste at all. Just about anyone- unless you are akin to the Victorian “social purist” Anthony Comstock- can walk away from this movie feeling quite satisfied.

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Prescription for Heterosexuality

Our own Carolyn Herbst Lewis recently sat down with Jackie Wolf, host of WOUB's Conversations From Studio B, to talk about her new book, Prescription For Heterosexuality: Sexual Citizenship in the Cold War Era. Carolyn's book examines "how medical practitioners, especially family physicians, situated themselves as the guardians of Americans' sexual well-being during the early years of the Cold War.

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Sunday Morning Medicine

Long lost doctor's report on President Lincoln's fatal wounds discovered.
Was Snow White a real historical figure?
Do women have to choose between The Pill or the environment?
Let us not forget the brave women who fasted for the ERA.

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Community Nurse

Oh, Michigan...you just couldn't let Wisconsin soak in the limelight of conservatism for too long, could you? I know there is a whole Badger/Wolverine rivalry, but honestly, you could have at least given the Dairy State one full day of being "King of the Crazy" before trying to snatch the crown away. n a move that will surely place The Mitten State squarely in the middle of the War on Women, the Detroit Free Press is reporting that the Michigan House is considering passing a controversial set of bills designed to restrict and regulate abortion practices.

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Get Out of Our Exam Rooms: A Brief History of the Uneasy Relationship between Medicine and Politics

So far, 2012 has seen state legislators proposing an unprecedented number of bills aimed at regulating women’s access to various reproductive health services, including mammograms, annual pap smears to detect cervical cancer, contraceptives, and abortion, as well as women’s ability to pay for these services through private and public insurance providers. The underlying assumption in all of this health legislation is that women are unable to make informed, responsible decisions about their bodies unless they are mandated to do so by the state. A parallel implication is that even the physicians treating these women are incapable of making medically appropriate decisions without state interference. Medical professionals finally began fighting back on this political trespassing on their terrain just this week.

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Sunday Morning Medicine

North Carolina becomes the first state in the nation to grant reparation payments to victims of its state-sanctioned eugenics .
LBGT Archives in danger.
Why stop at abortion rights? The Anti-Choice folks also want to restrict your options in end-of-life care.
Your grandmother was skinnier than you because she did more housework.
Was New Mexico's Chief Medical Officer forced out because of her public comments on safe-sex practices?
The bizarre world of postpartum celebrity moms.

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