Tag: medicine

The Black Politics of Eugenics

Eugenics is still a dirty word. It makes us think about science gone horribly wrong. It reminds us of the ghosts of Nazis past. The specter of eugenics is invoked when discussing new genetic technologies, often serving as a warning that engineering humanity can go too far. It wasn’t always like this. For much of… Read more →

Eyes of the Beholder: The Public Health Service Reports on Trachoma in White Appalachia and Indian Country

In 1912, the United States Public Health Service (PHS) set out to survey trachoma rates among two populations: Appalachian Whites in Kentucky and American Indians. I knew about the American Indian survey from my dissertation research on Native health in the early twentieth century. But when I read the report from that study, I was… Read more →

The Miseries and Heartbreak of Backstreet Abortions: Before and After Roe

In 1967, a group of clergy in New York City founded the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion (CCS) to “bring light and hope to the thousands of people who suffer — usually in quiet, and sometimes in death — the miseries and heartbreak of backstreet abortions.” In an era of back-alley butchers, prohibitively high-priced abortions… Read more →

Back to the Back Alley? Abortion Rights and Realities in the Trump Era

On the first day of his presidency, Donald Trump reinstated the global gag rule on abortion. This is no great surprise; Trump is certainly not the first Republican president to restrict access to abortion when assuming office. Still, there is something different about the Trump election and administration: already, of course, when it comes to… Read more →

“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 →

“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 →

Nurse-Midwives are With Women, Walking a Middle Path to a Safe and Rewarding Birth

In childbirth politics as in all politics, extreme viewpoints make the news, and sensible centrists are ignored. A couple of years ago, Ricki Lake provoked a firestorm of debate about home birth with her film, The Business of Being Born, which showcased gloriously crunchy New York City home births, and made the case for the… 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 →

Is Your Doctor Experimenting On You?

My friend’s father is in the hospital, and it’s been rough. His cancer treatment did not go as expected. “He’s suffering so much!” my friend sighed. “And the doctors, they’re just experimenting on him. It’s horrible.” When I heard this, I was confused. Was her father in some sort of experimental treatment? “No. But the… Read more →

Disproving Self-Indulgence: Congenital Addiction in the Early Twentieth Century

On October 10, 1989, police arrived at the Medical University of South Carolina. They handcuffed Lori Griffin, a black girl not yet eighteen, and arrested her for distributing cocaine to a minor. That minor was her newborn child — distribution took place through the placenta. The police came because Lori’s urine had tested positive for… Read more →