Can every baby be a Gerber Baby? A century of American baby contests and eugenics

In 2018, Gerber made headlines for selecting baby Lucas as the winner of its Spokesbaby Contest, making Lucas the first Gerber baby with Down syndrome in the company’s 95-year history. As then-President and CEO of the well-known baby food company Bill Partyka explained in a 2018 press release, “Every year, we choose the baby who… Read more →

Losing ‘sorrow in stupefaction’: American Women’s Opiate Dependency before 1900

In 1791 Elizabeth Blake tried to help her sister, New Yorker Catalina Hale, to end her years-long dependency on laudanum, a pain reliever that consisted of opium and alcohol. Catalina was turning twenty-two, and she had already made two attempts to quit.[1] She had begun taking laudanum under a doctor’s orders, to treat “a painful… Read more →

Why We Need the Pink Triangle in the Era of “Don’t Say Gay”

Before the rainbow flag became synonymous with the LGBTQ+ community, the emblem of queer activism was the pink triangle, a symbol that originated as a Nazi concentration camp badge. How did this repressive symbol become a liberating emblem of queer identity? The history of this transformation offers both a warning and inspiration in the face… Read more →

‘Phantom Catholic Threats’ and Haunted Legal Futures: Reading the Deal Over Ireland’s National Maternity Hospital

In May 2022, Irish social and mainstream media were alive with heated discussion of the terms of proposed agreements between three corporate entities: the National Maternity Hospital (NMH), St. Vincent’s Healthcare Group (SVHG), and the Health Service Executive (HSE), the statutory body that runs Ireland’s public health service. The central question, picked over in a… Read more →

The Misuse of History in The Business of Birth Control

“The Business of Birth Control,” a 2021 film directed by Abby Epstein and executive produced by Ricki Lake, tells a selective history of contraceptives in the United States and aims to “empower” women (and persons with uteri generally) to make knowledgeable choices about their choice of preventative methods.[1] However, as previous critics of the film… Read more →

Abortion in Mexican History: An Interview with Elizabeth O’Brien

Nursing Clio’s third annual best article prize went to Elizabeth O’Brien, an assistant professor of the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University, for her article, “The Many Meanings of Aborto: Pregnancy Termination and the Instability of a Medical Category Over Time.” I had the pleasure of interviewing Elizabeth about her work on the history… Read more →

Family Connections: Melissa Fu’s Peach Blossom Spring

“To know a story is to carry it always, etched in his bones, even if dormant for decades.” (Melissa Fu, Peach Blossom Spring, 4) These days, it feels like every other historical fiction novel is about World War II. Many of these are written by women authors and focus on female characters. Whether these characters… Read more →

America Responds to Monkeypox: Learning from the History of HIV/AIDS

As known cases of monkeypox in the United States, the vast majority of which are among gay and bisexual men, continue to increase, an argument is raging – in the news media and on Twitter – over how to talk to the public about the disease. Some want to emphasize that “everyone is at risk,”… Read more →

Better Sight, Better Light: Eyesight and Selling the Farm Wife on Electric Modernity

On a chilly Monday in early February 1940, hundreds of locals had crowded into a “big top” tent in Johnson City, Texas to see the electric circus.[1] On the stage, a woman stood before a table of lamps, prepared to give a speech that she’d given dozens of times before. She would begin: “Everybody here… Read more →

Accidental Traces: Stowaway Objects in the Radio Haiti Archive

From the early 1970s until 2003, Radio Haïti-Inter, or simply Radio Haiti, was the country’s most prominent independent radio station. Under the leadership of its director, Jean Dominique and its news director Michèle Montas (who was also Dominique’s professional partner and wife), Radio Haiti fought for human rights, freedom of expression, and an end to… Read more →