Japan’s Once and Future Female Emperors

With the abdication today of the Japanese emperor, Akihito, and the passage of the throne to his son, talk has emerged yet again about the future of Japan’s imperial family and its insistence on male dynastic succession. But would it be so revolutionary to put a woman on the throne? History tells us no. In… Read more →

Museum Educators Unite: Unionizing the Lower East Side Tenement Museum

On April 15th, 2019, a group of workers in the Lower East Side Tenement Museum’s departments of Education, Visitor Services, Retail, and Advance Sales voted 72–3 to join United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 2110, joining a growing movement of museum professionals forming unions in New York City. The Tenement Museum is a unique institution. Housed… Read more →

Murder and Motherhood in 1950s Ireland: The Trial of Abortionist Mamie Cadden

On the evening of April 17, 1956, thirty-three-year-old Helen O. visited nurse Mamie Cadden at 17 Hume Street, Dublin, for what she likely thought would be a routine, if illegal, abortion.1 Helen O.’s death after the attempted abortion provoked a national controversy that complicated dominant constructions of motherhood and domesticity in mid-twentieth-century Ireland. In the… Read more →

Stop Depicting Technology As Redeeming Disabled People

About corn, fancy arms, and the narratives imposed upon me. About a year and half out from my amputation, I visited my local grocery store. I was looking at ears of corn, peeling back the husk a little to see if the corn inside was a winner. Someone sidled up to me, and leaned in…. Read more →

Sunday Morning Medicine

A weekly check-up of gender, medicine, and history in the news A history of Peeps. A little mercurial history. The death of the hippies. The Red Summer of 1919. The return of reefer madness. The CCC and African Americans. The “baby dolls” of New Orleans. When slaveowners got reparations. Victorians and their love of leeches…. Read more →

“Considerable Grief”: Dead Bodies, Mortuary Science, and Repatriation after the Great War

In September 1919, Mary McKenney was forced to relive the horrors of her husband Arthur’s death. Sergeant Arthur McKenney was wounded in France and returned to the United States.1 Despite his minor injury, he later died at a US Army hospital in Colonia, New Jersey from shock following an operation. After the autopsy, his body… Read more →

Pharmacological Innovation and the Desire to Simplify Postpartum Depression

At the end of March, Sage Therapeutics announced FDA approval for the intravenous and hospital-supervised use of their new postpartum depression (PPD) drug, Zulresso (brexanlone). The possibility of a new way to help women who are struggling with depression after childbirth is an exciting and important development, especially with claims that around 11% of new… Read more →

Intersex Revolutionary War Hero Did Good Because Doctors Did No Harm

The startling knowledge that the Polish nobleman and military leader, Casimir Pulaski, a hero of the American Revolution, may have been intersex should leave us with two important takeaways. First, people have always been born with intersex traits, or atypical sex development. Even the ancient laws of the Talmud recognized this fact, offering rules for… Read more →

What Does Gender Have to Do with the Desert?

Overheard in Grand Junction, Colorado on February 4, 2019 after Amy Irvine’s reading from her book, Desert Cabal: A New Season in the Wilderness. Amy Irvine’s Desert Cabal: A New Season in the Wilderness is a monologue written as if Irvine spoke directly to the deceased writer Edward Abbey at his gravesite. For those who… Read more →

The (Historical) Body in Pain

For the last decade, I’ve been reading and writing about other women’s pain. Contractions lasting 72 hours. Feverish deliriums after a punctured uterus. A woman beaten with a tree branch. I study the history of gender and medicine, and my book manuscript examines the parallel processes of the medicalization of childbirth and the criminalization of… Read more →