Posts by Author: R.E. Fulton

“Buried with Doctor’s Certificate”: Reading the Uses and Abuses of Bodies in a Medical School Thesis

In 1886, Marie K. Formad graduated from the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, entering the small but rapidly growing body of American women holding the degree of Doctor of Medicine. Along with Dr. Formad, the 31 other members of the class of 1886 demonstrated clearly the progress of women’s medical education in the thirty years… 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 →

Strange Pain, Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Womb: A Teacher’s Reflection on Bodies in History

In fall 2015, I taught a first-year writing class called “Womb Trouble.” I don’t know if it was a very good class. I was a first-time adjunct not quite out of grad school, tasked with teaching writing to freshmen barely five years younger than me, and I latched onto the text I knew best: the… Read more →

Are Women Human? A Historical Mystery with Medical Interruptions

In 1938, the British crime writer and theologian Dorothy Leigh Sayers addressed a women’s society on the simple question: “Are Women Human?” Adding her voice to the ongoing discourse on the “woman question,” Sayers expressed frustration with the wonder and criticism directed towards those people whose lives divert from the path expected of their gender…. Read more →

Pictures of an Institution: Birth Records at Old Blockley

On September 22, 1859, 30-year-old Margaret Merchant of Philadelphia was admitted to the obstetrical ward at the Blockley Almshouse. She was pregnant with her sixth child — a boy, though with the ultrasound almost exactly a century in the future, Mrs. Merchant could not have known that at the time. A mother of five, Mrs…. Read more →

Report from Pride: LGBT History Is (Not Yet) American History

Last June I participated in the annual Pride March in New York City, the biggest celebration of LGBT pride in the world. My girlfriend and I marched with the Episcopal Diocese of New York, waving a tiny rainbow flag someone handed us and walking behind a long white banner down 5th Avenue. After a slow start,… Read more →

Back in the Narrative: Hamilton as a Model for Women’s History

Last September, the soundtrack of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-nominated Hamilton: An American Musical became available online to Americans everywhere, and history changed. All right, that might be a strong claim — after all, it’s just a Broadway musical, 47 tracks following the life of Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, a hip-hop reinterpretation of U.S. History. But the… Read more →

A Letter to the Lady in Pants: Dr. Mary Edwards Walker and the History of Women (Un)Worthies

“WALKER, Mary Edwards (Nov. 26, 1832 – Feb. 21, 1919), Civil War medical worker, dress reformer, and eccentric.” So begins the description of the collected papers of Dr. Mary Edwards Walker at Syracuse University: a strange summary of a strange life.1 Dr. Walker, though she was a contemporary of Drs. Elizabeth Blackwell, Ann Preston, and… Read more →

“The Only Menstrual Murderess”: Blood, Guns, and a Theory of Female Crime

In fact, when she came downstairs on the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Andrew Borden gave her father Andrew Jackson Borden only ten or eleven whacks, and her stepmother Abby Durfee Gray Borden twenty. Nearly a century and a quarter later, criminologists, historians, and true crime buffs are still arguing as to the how… Read more →

Whipped: An Editor, a Lady, and the (Not So) Humorous History of Women’s Anger

In 1859, the popular men’s magazine The National Police Gazette, known for its coverage of sport, saucy ladies, and other topics of general interest to the American heterosexual male, published a powerfully frank feminist rant written to the editors of the Philadelphia Daily News by one of the nation’s earliest female physicians.1 The author was… Read more →