Tag: Women’s History

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 →

Repositioning the Family and the Household in a Global History of Abortion: The Case of Early-Twentieth-Century China

In May, NC editor Cassia Roth and Diana Paton organized the Intimate Politics: Fertility Control in a Global Historical Perspective conference at the University of Edinburgh. The conference explored reproduction, gender, and race from the perspective of multiple time periods, geographic locations, actors, and methods. Scholars from Europe, the United States, South Africa, Turkey, and… 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 →

A Kick for a Bite; Or, Review Upon Review Upon Ten Babies on the Floor

On April 18, 2018, the United States Senate voted unanimously that both male and female senators could bring infants up to one year old into the chamber. This vote was prompted by Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth’s desire to come to the floor of the Senate to vote when her daughter, Maile Pearl Bowlsbey, was only… Read more →

The Devastation of Peace: Otilia Noeckel and the Army Nurse Corps after the Great War

“I just adore the work I am doing right now. I am on a dressing team with another nurse and a surgeon. We dress wounds almost all day long. Today we did sixty. The horrors of the war are certainly evident around here. Some of the wounds are frightful and some of the poor boys… Read more →

“There Had Been No Penetration:” Male Surgeons’ Roles in Defining Rape in Eighteenth-Century England

In July of 1715, when Mary Marsh was asked about the details of her rape, she claimed that “the Prisoner threw her upon the Bed, press’d her very hard, and put something into her, but was so modest she would not declare what.”1 When two medical surgeons “depos’d that there had been no penetration,” William… Read more →

Women’s Health Advocacy at Work

I realized belatedly that writing a biography of a women’s health activist as my dissertation (and wrestling with the late journalist Barbara Seaman’s strong personality) was an exhausting task. I finished graduate school a semester late, burnt out, and in desperate need of a paycheck. So when I saw a job advertisement from a women’s… Read more →

“Bought some souvenirs as usual and a cheese:” Nurses’ Lives Outside the Hospital in the First World War

A great deal has been written about soldiers’ experiences behind the lines during the First World War and the relationships they forged in the course of their service. From visiting brothels to performing in amateur theatricals, interpersonal and romantic relationships had lasting effects on men after their service had ended.1 Janet S.K. Watson has noted… Read more →

“I Would Rather Have My Own Mind”: The Medicalization of Women’s Behavior in Ireland, 1914-1920

When he brought her to the asylum, twenty-four-year old Katie’s father was asked to describe what behaviors or actions had marked her “attack.” He noted, first, that she suffered from “some uterine trouble,” and secondly, that she was “addicted to reading Novels, esp. Modn. cheap ones. Fond of amusement and gay society.”1 It sounds like… Read more →

The Enigmatic Spinster

Judging from the number of books, blogs, news articles and interviews focused on the lives of single women, it seems that the “spinster” is making a resurgence. For example, Rebecca Traister’s All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation and Kate Bolick’s Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own received… Read more →