Cassia Roth

Women’s Experiences Matter. Natalie Kimball’s An Open Secret: The History of Unwanted Pregnancy and Abortion in Modern Bolivia

Women’s experiences matter – this simple truth is at the core of Natalie Kimball’s brilliant new exploration into the tragic history of unwanted pregnancy and abortion in highland Bolivia over the past sixty years. As Kimball so eloquently argues in her book An Open Secret: The History of Unwanted Pregnancy and Abortion in Modern Bolivia,… Read more →

“ES LEY”: Argentina Legalizes Abortion

The flashing words “ES LEY” (It’s law!) marked the occasion: on December 30, 2020, Argentina’s Senate voted 38-29,with one abstention, to legalize abortion for any reason (“on demand”) in the first fourteen weeks of pregnancy. What’s more, public hospitals will provide the service free of charge. Argentina now joins its neighbor Uruguay, which legalized abortion… Read more →

Cite My Name, Cite My Name

A couple years back, I was co-teaching a graduate course on gender history at the University of Edinburgh. I was advising an MA student on historiographical literature, and I asked her if she used Google Scholar to locate scholarly references. She didn’t, so I demonstrated how to use the search tool. As an example, I… Read more →

Burying the Dead, and Then Digging Them Up

About a week after my partner Clayton was murdered in 2015, I went back to his gravesite with one of his brothers to visit. The cemetery, located in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro, was a peaceful place, with expansive lawns and even some trees that afforded much-needed shade near Clayton’s burial site. Clayton’s headstone… Read more →

All My Babies and Black Midwifery: An Interview with Wangui Muigai

Wangui Muigai is the winner of the inaugural Nursing Clio Best Journal Article Prize for “‘Something Wasn’t Clean’: Black Midwifery, Birth, and Postwar Medical Education in All My Babies,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine, vol. 93, no. 1 (2019), 82–113. An assistant professor of history and African and African American studies at Brandeis University,… Read more →

Portraying Abortion in Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Film and TV portrayals of abortion in the last decade have become both more prevalent and complex. Take the different abortion storylines over the course of HBO’s series Girls (love it or hate it). In Season 1’s “Vagina Panic,” Jessa is scheduled to have an abortion when she conveniently has her “period” in a bar’s… Read more →

The Slow Moon Climbs: Talking Menopause with Susan Mattern

Recently, I heard an interview with TV anchor Gayle King on the NPR show On Point about her career as a journalist, her recent interview with R. Kelly, and her experience working in a visual field while aging. One caller mentioned the “menopause pooch,” and congratulated King for redefining what a TV anchor looks like. In… Read more →

A Miscarriage of Justice

My book, A Miscarriage of Justice: Women’s Reproductive Lives and the Law in Early Twentieth-Century Brazil (Stanford University Press, 2020), begins and ends with the story of twenty-nine-year-old Isalina Vieira, a Brazilian woman living in the country’s capital of Rio de Janeiro. One October morning in 1912, Vieira went into labor. She called her female… Read more →

Najila and Neymar; or, The Normalization of Violence against Women in Brazil

You may have heard of Neymar, Brazil’s soccer darling.1 With the speed and skill to rival the all-time greats, he’s been on the international scene for almost a decade, leading his team in two World Cups and clinching an Olympic gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. But he’s also faced intense criticism from… 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 →