“A Most Damnable Fraud?” Public (Mis)conceptions and the Insanity Defense

James Kahler murdered his two daughters, ex-wife, and grandmother in Kansas on Thanksgiving in 2009. Kahler’s defense team wanted to use an insanity plea, but Kansas is one of only four states that does not allow for this defense. Quickly, the focus of his trial shifted from the question of his mental health to a… Read more →

“The Egg” in the Twenty-First Century: A Family’s Holistic Healing and Cleansing Practice

In the early 2000s, my great-aunt performed a holistic healing act on my mother with an egg. My mother, sick and feverish in bed, hadn’t kept food down for days. My grandmother called her sister, my madrina at the time, and asked that she come perform the ritual — “the egg,” as we called it… Read more →

“Who but Women Should Manage It?”: Convalescent Home Matrons and Medical Recuperation

Today we often hear reports about women’s invisible labor. Female family members do the lion’s share of housework and caregiving — not just for their own children, but for any household member. Given that such caregiving takes time, often drawing women away from wage-earning jobs, this care is likely one source of wage discrepancies between… Read more →

Sunday Morning Medicine

A weekly check-up of gender, medicine, and history in the news The lost art of sin-eating. San Francisco’s plague years. On the history of the artificial womb. The fatphobic myth behind baby fat. How to lose weight like a chess player. The revolutionary history of mooncakes. Lobotomy, science, and the digital humanities.  The many faces… Read more →

Evidence Written in Blood: Forensic Science and the True Crime Consumer

According to reports, in December 2001 Michael Peterson found his wife, Kathleen Peterson, dead at the bottom of a set of stairs in their Durham home. While locals like me remember the hullabaloo that followed, true crime fans became familiar with the case through a multipart French documentary, The Staircase, which Netflix renewed for five… Read more →

Uncovering the History of Child Psychiatry: A Conversation with Deborah Blythe Doroshow

I recently had the pleasure of talking to Deborah Doroshow about her new book, Emotionally Disturbed: A History of Caring for America’s Troubled Children, which explores the development of Residential Treatment Centers (RTCs) for “emotionally disturbed” children. The book does a masterful job of explaining how this new category of mental illness came into being… Read more →

Missing Leaf: Placing Cannabis in the American Herbal Renaissance

Given the daily barrage of distressing headlines, you will be forgiven for not noticing that the United States is in the midst of an herbal renaissance. Concurrent with a rising distrust of mainstream medicine and the popularity of organic or “natural” foods, about 20 percent of the American public now report using herbal products. Over… Read more →

Retirement Life: Escorting Clinic Patients

When I officially retired from my academic position (I’m teaching one last semester in the fall as a phased retiree) I calculated all the time I spent in meetings at work and transferred those hours over to escorting patients at an abortion clinic. I am lucky to be able to retire and do this, and… Read more →

Sunday Morning Medicine

A weekly check-up of gender, medicine, and history in the news I Gooped myself. Comics and medicine. Misogyny in lesbian dating. A brief history of masturbation. Is digital crime history too white? The long history of not having kids. The women who refuse ultrasounds. The mystery of a lake full of skeletons. The bikini turned… Read more →

The Postmortem Life of Anton Probst: Philadelphia’s First Mass Murderer

On the morning of June 7, 1866, Henry Leffmann, a first-year medical student at Jefferson Medical College, arrived at Philadelphia’s Myomensing Prison to set up a large quantity of galvanic batteries. Leffmann’s mentor, Dr. Benjamin Howard Rand, requested these “voltaic cells” to conduct “a most unusual experiment” upon the corpse of executed mass murderer, Anton… Read more →