Hospital Confinement: From the 19th Century to the 21st

Last summer I had a very different experience of childbirth than most women. I was not entirely sure what to expect when my husband drove me to the emergency room on the night of July 4, leaking amniotic fluid 10 weeks early. Rather than the straightforward checking of vitals and intermittent monitoring as labor gradually… Read more →

Are Our Genes Really Our Fate? DNA’s Visual Culture and the Construction of Genetic Truth

The direct-to-consumer genetic testing company 23andme has recently been described by journalist Erika Check Hayden as a “unicorn.”1 For Hayden, this Silicon Valley idiom describes the company’s one billion dollar valuation while also capturing the rare opportunity it affords to scientists: its two million customers make up the largest available pool of gene-linked health data.2… Read more →

“Weaponized Babies”; or, Damn, Why Didn’t I Think of Using That Term?

News that Senator Tammy Duckworth brought her baby to the Senate floor for a vote thrilled some and infuriated others. Prior debate over whether babies belonged in the Senate sparked some great pro- and anti-baby remarks that pundits and scholars will enjoy parsing and quoting in coming days, weeks, months … or until babies on… Read more →

Sunday Morning Medicine

A weekly check-up of gender, medicine, and history in the news What’s a museum? How to woo a suffragist. The Abigail Adams problem. Rewriting black gendered stories. The rise and fall of the Spamettes. The history of “pickles and ice cream.” Conversion therapy and the culture wars. The radical women of Latin American art. Charles… Read more →

Public Theater and Health Care in the Early Modern Spanish World

In May of 1646, don Duarte Fernando Álvarez de Toledo Portugal, the Viceroy of the Kingdom of Valencia, wrote a letter to King Philip IV. The Spanish monarch, who ruled over the various territories that comprised the Crown of Castile (including overseas dominions in the Americas) and the Crown of Aragón (which included Catalonia, Valencia,… Read more →

It’s (Not) in Your Head: When Bodies Defy Logic

“If you say too little they can’t help you, and if they say too much they think you’re kind of … a mental patient.” Less than five minutes into Jennifer Brea’s stunning new documentary, Unrest, her husband captures this central tension for people with rare or undiagnosed conditions and their loved ones. Brea has myalgic… Read more →

The Stain of Slavery is Silencing Sexual Violence Against Black and Brown Women

I am an American woman who has never experienced sexual assault, rape, or coercion. Bully for me, right? This detail of my life is only notable because, among women in this county, I am in the minority. The Department of Justice reported in 2015 that there was an average of 321,500 reported cases of sexual… Read more →

Sunday Morning Medicine

A weekly check-up of gender, medicine, and history in the news Disability, race, and art. The faces of World War I. Perfume advice for Victorians. A brief history of fake doctors. The language of American loggers. The Chinese survivors of the Titanic. (Mis)understanding a female serial killer. The strange history of medicinal turpentine. 10 historical… Read more →

Lizards and the Idea of Mexico

In the summer of 1782, Don Juan de Luna, a respected elder citizen of the City of Mexico, nearly choked on a lagartija, a lizard, when he ate it to ease the throbbing tumor on his tongue. The details are foggy, but he likely followed the protocol established by his medical counsel, the celebrated physicist,… Read more →

“No-Tell Motels”: Abortion in Pre-Roe South Carolina

“Charleston was the place to come before Roe v. Wade, for abortions.” Reminiscing about illegal abortion in South Carolina in the 1960s and early 1970s, this woman in her 60s, an oral history narrator, highlighted the roles of “backstreet” abortion networks in Charleston. She also told a story about a college friend who needed an… Read more →