Nurse-Midwives are With Women, Walking a Middle Path to a Safe and Rewarding Birth

In childbirth politics as in all politics, extreme viewpoints make the news, and sensible centrists are ignored. A couple of years ago, Ricki Lake provoked a firestorm of debate about home birth with her film, The Business of Being Born, which showcased gloriously crunchy New York City home births, and made the case for the… Read more →

Protesting the ERA

Like many of my fellow Americans, I was glued to the television on election night. After months of the media and politicos enumerating the many reasons why Donald Trump would never win, I watched in shock as he became president-elect of the United States. The following morning, I learned that 42% of American women who… Read more →

Mary, Did You Know?: An Essay on Christmas Carols, Medical History, and Reproductive Politics

The Christmas season is a curious time for a historian of women’s health, abortion, and maternal politics: at its historical and religious core, the holiday revolves around the legend of an unusual pregnancy and a remarkable birth. The miracle of Christmas, in the Christian tradition familiar to many Americans today, is not only the birth… Read more →

Sunday Morning Medicine

A weekly check-up of gender, medicine, and history in the news The artificial kidney. Poison in colonial India. Period poetry contests. Why sound archiving is important. The business of pregnancy testing. Why the Nazis studied American race laws. Historians have a new theory on Anne Frank. The struggles of America’s first black doctors. Finding patients’… Read more →

Emotion and Fantasy: Marcus Garvey and a Blueprint for Modern Protest Movements

Here’s a trivia question: what was the largest African American organization in history? Hint: It wasn’t the NAACP, not SNCC or CORE or the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, not even the Nation of Islam with its 1995 Million Man March. Instead, it was the Universal Negro Improvement Association, a curious and short-lived movement that was… Read more →

The Black Panthers’ and Tom Hayden’s Lessons to the White Left in an Age of Trump

I often receive inquiries from white and non-black folks about how they can get involved in anti-racist organizing, especially after high-profile police shootings of African Americans. The requests for advice increased after Donald Trump’s election. I usually oblige because I always want to help, and I consider answering such questions to be part of political… Read more →

On Feeding My Husband with Cancer

I am both a historian of medicine and a practicing physician. This sometimes throws into sharp relief how different medicine is today than it was even 100 years ago. One of the guiding principles in my research and teaching is called “relativism” — trying to understand people and ideas in the past on their own… Read more →

Sunday Morning Medicine

A weekly check-up of gender, medicine, and history in the news A history of black Santas. War memorials have failed. Great moments in syphilis.  Exploring 1930s booze labels. 200 years of deadly London air. Holocaust jacket found at tag sale. The health of suffragette prisoners. The uses and abuses of ether in history. Second opinions… Read more →

More Than Sponges: Children’s Letters to Presidents and “Go Back to Africa”

  Standing Rock. #BlackLivesMatter. Periods for Pence. Women’s March on Washington. Political demonstrations have dominated the headlines this year. With the startling outcome of this year’s presidential election, many scholars and activists believe that political protests will define the next four years under the Trump administration. The act of protest has a long and complicated history,… Read more →

Tales of Transnational White Privilege: Gender, Race, and Nationality on the Streets of Rio de Janeiro

It’s old news by now that on August 14, 2016, American swimmers Ryan Lochte, James Feigen, Gunar Bentz, and Jack Conger claimed that they were robbed at gunpoint by police officers at a gas station in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In an interview with NBC, Lochte said that the four swimmers had been pulled over… Read more →