Tag: history

When Did We Get So Hormonal? An Interview with Randi Hutter Epstein

Randi Hutter Epstein’s new book, Aroused: The History of Hormones and How They Control Just About Everything, traces the development of our scientific and medical understanding of hormones from the late nineteenth century to the present. Each chapter focuses on a different hormone, linking the science of endocrinology to fascinating details about the social context that… Read more →

The Dangerous Price of Diabetes: Not What the Pioneering Researchers Predicted

The 1921 discovery of insulin ushered in a new era in endocrinology. Canadian researchers transformed diabetes from certain death sentence to chronic illness, infusing hormone researchers and doctors with giddy optimism. Doctors soon thought that every hormone ailment would be reversed. All that was needed was to mimic what the University of Toronto team did… Read more →

Deconstructing the Stonewall Myth (Brick by Brick)

If you’ve been on social media at all during the month of June, you’ve probably seen Marsha P. Johnson’s name floating through your feeds. Johnson, a self-identified drag queen and founding member of the Gay Liberation Front, looms large in public consciousness today as the “black, bisexual trans woman, who was a sex worker, that… Read more →

Women’s Liberation, Beauty Contests, and the 1920s: Swimsuit Edition

For several years, I’ve had a wall decoration in my office: a panoramic photo of a 1920s beauty contest. I was surprised to come across it at a discount home furnishings retailer and bought it on impulse. After all, how often does a cherished primary source present itself as a consumer good? From its inception,… Read more →

How To Cook and Cure: Early Modern Recetas

Recipes can quickly transport us to particular times and places. A glance at this vintage Jell-O recipe calls to mind the model 1960s US housewife and the gendered obligations of food and preparation. Women’s relationship to recipes are taken up in a less widely-known context in British artist George Cruikshank’s nineteenth-century etching with watercolors. Titled,… Read more →

Are Our Genes Really Our Fate? DNA’s Visual Culture and the Construction of Genetic Truth

The direct-to-consumer genetic testing company 23andme has recently been described by journalist Erika Check Hayden as a “unicorn.”1 For Hayden, this Silicon Valley idiom describes the company’s one billion dollar valuation while also capturing the rare opportunity it affords to scientists: its two million customers make up the largest available pool of gene-linked health data.2… Read more →

Lizards and the Idea of Mexico

In the summer of 1782, Don Juan de Luna, a respected elder citizen of the City of Mexico, nearly choked on a lagartija, a lizard, when he ate it to ease the throbbing tumor on his tongue. The details are foggy, but he likely followed the protocol established by his medical counsel, the celebrated physicist,… Read more →

“No-Tell Motels”: Abortion in Pre-Roe South Carolina

“Charleston was the place to come before Roe v. Wade, for abortions.” Reminiscing about illegal abortion in South Carolina in the 1960s and early 1970s, this woman in her 60s, an oral history narrator, highlighted the roles of “backstreet” abortion networks in Charleston. She also told a story about a college friend who needed an… Read more →

Canned Food History: A Conversation with Anna Zeide

Recently, I had my students in Food in American Society and Culture try their hand at drafting dietary guidelines. While every group recommended consuming fruits and vegetables, one group specifically called out “fresh and frozen, not canned.” Their dismissal of canned fruit and veg caught my attention as I was at the time reading a… Read more →

What Would Philippe Pinel Do? Old and New Understandings of Mental Illness

I was intrigued when, on February 1, 2018, I heard the journalist and author Johann Hari on Democracy Now! talking about his most recent book, Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression—and the Unexpected Solutions. In this book, Hari argued that the primary cause of “rising depression and anxiety is not in our heads.”… Read more →