Tag: history

Gender-Bending in Thirteenth-Century Literature: The Roman de Silence

Do genetics or environmental factors determine one’s gender identity? The question may seem a distinctly modern one. Indeed, premodern people — and especially medieval ones — are often considered naively incapable of even pondering such concepts. We assume it was a simpler time, long before the theoretical legwork of social constructionism and so much feminist… Read more →

“Witness the ‘Wall of Genitals’”: Anatomical Display at Brooklyn’s House of Wax

Located in the lobby of the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Brooklyn, the House of Wax is a dimly lit bar decorated with more than 100 anatomical, pathological, and ethnographic wax models. Once part of Castan’s Panopticum, a popular attraction in Berlin from 1869 to 1922, the models were purchased last year by collector Ryan Matthew… Read more →

Silence and Noise: What AIDS Activism and Social Memory Can Teach Us

In the mid-1980s, when I was a twenty-something college dropout, I met people my age or older who knew a lot about history, about our history, the history of queer people. Part of this history included that of the men who were forced to wear the pink triangle in the Nazi concentration camps. And maybe… Read more →

Faith, Reproductive Politics and Resistance: A Conversation with the Reverend Joan Bates Forsberg

Reverend Joan Bates Forsberg played a notable role in struggles for contraceptive access in the 1950s and 1960s and abortion access in the 1970s. Although her name regularly appears in historical accounts of Griswold v. Connecticut, the 1965 Supreme Court case that overturned Connecticut’s ban on contraceptives, historians have repeatedly described Forsberg as a minister’s… 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 →

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 →

A Day at the Smithsonian: Black History Takes Its Place on the National Mall

Like many historians, I was thrilled that the newest Smithsonian museum would be focusing on African American History and Culture. The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) opened in late September, and I reserved tickets two months early to visit with family and friends — this was lucky forethought, since free tickets… Read more →

Dorothy Bruce Weske: Academia and Motherhood in the Mid-Twentieth Century

In 1934, in her mid-thirties and single, Dorothy Bruce defended her dissertation at Radcliffe College on thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Convocations, a name given to a category of English church councils. In 1937, her work, Convocation of the Clergy: A Study of its Antecedents and its Rise with Special Emphasis upon its Growth and Activities in… Read more →

Parental Guilt & STIs: A Historical Look

If you’ve been watching television lately, you’ve probably seen Merck’s recent ads for Gardasil, the most widely used vaccine for human papilloma virus (HPV). The commercials begin with a young person in their 20s stating they have cervical cancer or have been infected with HPV. From there, we see them get progressively younger through family… Read more →