Ruth Taylor Ballard: A Nursing Pioneer In the Jim Crow South

In 1954, the public school system of Mobile, Alabama, launched its first training program for black nursing students. It was a one-year Licensed Practical Nurse Program (LPN). Before then, an African American who wanted to study nursing had to travel to places like Selma, Montgomery, and Tuskegee. Few had the means or the ability to… Read more →

Waiting for a Death Revolution: A Review of HBO’s Alternate Endings: Six New Ways to Die in America

I can’t decide what to do with my corpse. Embalming, the bread-and-butter of the American funeral industry, feels wrong. Is cremation a better option for me? Do I want a funeral service where everyone can cry (or celebrate) my departure? Or is it better to just let things go quietly, no ritual required? The fact… Read more →

Anoint an Aries with Sheep’s Blood: Finding the Familiar in the Astral Medicine in Ancient Mesopotamia

From so far in the future, the medicine of ancient Mesopotamia looks strange. After all, it’s easy to dismiss the therapeutic use of an eagle’s head as not even qualifying as medicine. One unique and perhaps unexpected way in which Mesopotamian medicine differed from our conceptions of medicine is in its use of astrology. We… Read more →

In Vitro Fertilization: From Science Fiction to Reality to History

It was not that long ago that “test tube babies” only existed in science fiction. I remember my shock when, in 2007, one of my students at Wellesley College told me that she was an IVF (in vitro fertilization) baby. “The technology couldn’t be that old, could it?” I thought. In The Pursuit of Parenthood:… Read more →

Butter and the History of U.S. Dietary Guides since 1894

Creamy, sometimes salty, and optimistically yellow, butter is one of my favorite foods. It’s also a scientific and cultural barometer. For the first half of the twentieth century, nutritionists enthusiastically endorsed butter as a good source of energy and part of a healthy, moderate diet. Early government-issued food guides endorsed eating enough food, as public… Read more →

Sunday Morning Medicine

A weekly check-up of gender, medicine, and history in the news How Italians became white. Menopause before menopause. The feminist history fat liberation. The commodification of witchcraft. A history of health foods in Ireland. Who were the real Peaky Blinders? Antibiotics are getting into everything. The midwife in the modern American West. Is this the… Read more →

What to Expect When You’re Expecting in the Nineteenth-Century U.S.

Type “pregnancy” into any internet search engine today, and you’ll literally get a billion results. This plethora of information at our fingertips feels quite modern, and yet it has a long history: American women have long turned to the printed word for advice about their reproductive bodies. In the nineteenth century, there were many competing… Read more →

Cancer DIY: Gendered Politics, Colonialism, and the Circulation of Self-Sampling Screening Technologies in Canada

Innovative. Exciting. Easy. Painless. These are just some of the words used to describe the Delphi Screener — a sterile, plastic, syringe-like device that allows women to test themselves for cervical cancer. Requiring no training, speculum, or invasive gynecological exam, this novel technique was developed in 2015 by three Dutch gynecologists who wanted to design… Read more →

The Racist Misogyny behind Your “Does My Butt Look Fat in This?”: Reading Sabrina Strings’ Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia

Every so often, a book comes out that arrives as both an answer to a question and an answer to a prayer. For me, Sabrina Strings’s Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia is emphatically both. My scholarly superpower, and an annoying one it is too, is finding the holes in the… Read more →

Sunday Morning Medicine

A weekly check-up of gender, medicine, and history in the news Farm to hospital bed. Why IVF has divided France. A brief history of chicken soup. A “Cook’s Tour” of imperialism. Who are feminist baby books for? Argentine feminists remake tango. How the drug user became a junkie. The woman who designed tarot cards. Want… Read more →