Big Berkshire Conference 2014 Report

By Heather Munro Prescott

Last month, I attended the 16th Berkshire Conference on the History of Women (aka the Big Berks) at the University of Toronto. For those unfamiliar with this event, it is a triennial research conference held by the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians (aka the Little Berks). According to the Little Berks website, the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians “formed in 1930 in response to women academics’ sense of professional isolation.” Women historians were allowed to join the American Historical Association (the professional organization for historians in the U.S.), but “were never invited to the ‘smokers,’ the parties, the dinners and the informal gatherings where the leading men of the profession introduced their graduate students to their colleagues and generally shepherded them into history jobs in colleges and universities.”

Sunday Morning Medicine

By Jacqueline Antonovich

-Fatal Victorian fashion.
-Public health on Ellis Island.
-The 10 best hospital novels.
-The occult and the telephone.
-The woman who invented Iraq.
-The Victorian Meme Machine.
-The queen of patent medicines.

“Blossoms of Hope”: Our Cultural History of Pregnancy and Infant Loss and Grief

By Ginny Engholm

In a recent Adventures in the Archives post, Adam Turner recounts a moving story of grief and loss he found in Today’s Health of a woman whose daughter was born three months premature due to a hemolytic disease in the 1950’s. In the comments section after the post, blogger Historiann remarks, “I find it fascinating that she writes of her RH baby as being born ‘just three months too soon,’ and very much as a daughter rather than as a fetus or a patient. Even now, a 3-months preemie is still an extremely premature child with no guarantees–it’s interesting to know that some woman in 1950 thought about her daughter in the ways that seem familiar to [how] those of us in the post-Roe, post-ultrasound era think about pregnancy & children.” The commentator’s surprise at this mother’s conception of her fetus as a “daughter,” I think, mirrors a current trend in the feminist scholarship of pregnancy and childbirth that seems to divide cultural ideas around pregnancy, fetuses, and infants into pre- and post-Roe. Furthermore, advances in prenatal technology, particularly the development and increasing use of ultrasound technology, encourage us to imagine that women today have different, and in some ways, more personal relationships with their children still in the womb. And no doubt we do.

Our Wellness, Our Selves

By Carolyn Herbst Lewis

Recently, I taught my first upper-level course on the history of health and medicine in the United States. The course readings covered a broad base, both chronologically and thematically. The discussions that emerged from two of the assigned texts, however, really stand out in my memory. In fact, in retrospect, I can see that they shaped the emergence of an unexpected theme in the course: a critique of both the concept and rhetoric of wellness that is so prevalent in contemporary American workplaces, including many college campuses.

Sunday Morning Medicine

By Jacqueline Antonovich

-The myth of the flapper?
-Dangerous Victorian fashions.
-Deadly dollhouse dioramas.
-Everyday life in a secret city.
-How I was saved from the Titanic.
-A naughty Victorian pop-up book.
-The man who was immune to AIDS.

Adventures in the Archives: Searching for the Past

by Sarah Handley-Cousins

For much of this past year, I’ve been entrenched in dissertation research. Despite the long hours hunched over dusty papers, trying to decipher century-old handwriting, generally while cold and hungry, I’m not complaining. I’m continually amazed that I’m getting the opportunity to do exactly what I’ve always wanted: the work of history. What I wasn’t prepared for, necessarily, was the emotional work that would come along with it.

Sex as Construct, Rape as Reality, and Consent as Healing

By Jenna Tucker

I grew up in a culture obsessed with sexual ethics. As part of a group of Christian teenagers in the Midwest in the 1990’s, one thing we all knew, for certain, was that our religious and moral identities were directly linked to our relationships to sex. It was the culture that birthed virginity pledges and organized for abstinence-only sex education. I remember going to one of those Protestant mega-gatherings with youth groups from all over the country. The speaker gave us two messages that I carry with me to this day. The first was that we had to stop relying on our parents’ beliefs and develop our own relationship to God. The second was that we should not have sex and that anything that gave us sexual pleasure was sex. He was trying to head off our questions. Sex was bad, but what was sex? Could we have sex that didn’t risk pregnancy? Could we masturbate? What if we were engaged?

Parenting and Disordered Eating: How I am Trying to Break the Pattern

by Krista Heinitz

My blood pressure is amazing. My fridge and pantry are full of whole fruits and vegetables, whole wheats, and a very small amount of processed food. My family regularly hikes, camps, and actively adventures (whenever grad school isn’t consuming me). We are a healthy family. My body shows the after effects of childbirth — my stomach has some loose skin that sags and is rippled with stretch marks. Years of breastfeeding have changed the landscape of my breasts. All of these things, including my strong legs and back that carried my child, create a body I am proud of and happy to have. As I dig into rich, dark earth with my daughter so that we can sow beet seeds, I do not doubt that I am modeling and creating a healthy life for my child.

Sunday Morning Medicine

By Jacqueline Antonovich

-It’s made of people!!
-What creates memories?
-What exactly is a diagnosis?
-On the trail of black cowboys.
-Mark Twain on masturbation.
-The history of the humble knish.

How Much to Touch You?

By Cheryl Lemus

This past May, I paid someone to let me touch them and take pictures with them while my family watched. Now before you freak out, I should clarify that my family and I traveled to the Motor City Comic Con in mid-May. I’ll be honest; I am a late comer to the comic convention world. It’s a subculture that I am only beginning to understand. While I’m there, I feel like I am looking through glass, observing the behaviors, expectations, and ideals that hang in the air as fans, writers, retailers, and celebrities converge in a generic space converted into a place of worship, commerce, and fun. As a historian and feminist, I find myself asking questions and thinking about how comic conventions sit in a larger historical context of sex, gender, class, race, and culture. Yet, at the same time, the fan in me screams, “Screw that, I’m about to take a picture with Matt Smith and Karen Gillan!” My scholarly training and fan excitement have blended into a persona that has accepted that I will geek over the site of the 11th Doctor, but even so, I cannot help wonder why I am handing over my credit card to have a few brief moments with a designated VIP, or better yet, what am I expecting in this transaction?