Tag: Infanticide

Dead Babies in Boxes: Dealing with the Consequences of Interrupted Reproduction

One morning in June 2019, two city workers in Lyon, France, pulled a plastic bag out of the river that runs through the city center and found it contained the body of a “late term fetus or a newborn baby thought to be less than a day old.” Such occurrences have a long history in… Read more →

Intertwined Histories and Embodied Lives: An Interview with Cassia Roth

In A Miscarriage of Justice: Women’s Reproductive Lives and the Law in Early Twentieth-Century Brazil, Cassia Roth offers an innovative approach to the intertwined histories of honor, reproduction, maternity, and medicine in modern Brazilian history. With deep archival research, nuanced argumentation, and sensitivity toward historical actors — their suffering and their agency — Roth traces… 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 →

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 →

The Proof of Pregnancy

In February 1819, the Caswell County Superior Court in North Carolina tried three white women for infanticide. At issue was the state of the remains: whether the body was of a fetus or child. The accused birth mother, Sarah Jeffreys, initially denied her pregnancy but upon repeated questioning acknowledged “she had lost something but she… Read more →

On Infanticide and Reluctant Maternity: Between Personal Testimony and Historical Sensitivity

As a historian of gender and medicine, I sometimes have nightmares about the scenes of medical suffering that appear in archival sources. The setting is always the same: the historical medical-school-turned-archive where I conducted research. Because I study surgical technologies, my dreams tend to be chilling portraits of the instruments physicians used in obstetrical interventions…. Read more →

On Poverty, Morality, and Mothering

In 1930, nineteen-year-old black (preta) Jovelina Pereira dos Santos, a live-in domestic servant in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, hid her pregnancy from her family and employers, gave birth in secret, and asphyxiated her newborn immediately after delivery. Santos already had a young son named Ernesto who was a little over one year of age. Santos… Read more →

Trump’s Part in Centuries-Long History of Punishing Women and Doctors

In a recent campaign interview with Chris Matthews, presidential candidate Donald Drumpf contended “there has to be some form of punishment” for women seeking abortions, should the procedure be made illegal in the United States. In a rare moment, the candidate quickly retracted his statement, but not before his Republican opponents and pro-life advocates seized… Read more →