Category: Medicina/Medicine

Locating Enslaved Black Wet Nurses in the Literature of French Slavery

In George Sand’s 1832 idealist novel, Indiana, the eponymous protagonist is raised alongside her sœur de lait or “milk sister” Noun in the French Indian Ocean colony of Île Bourbon (present day Réunion). A “milk sister” was the daughter of the often enslaved wet nurse, and under French slave laws, children of enslaved women carried… 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 →

Public Theater and Health Care in the Early Modern Spanish World

In May of 1646, don Duarte Fernando Álvarez de Toledo Portugal, the Viceroy of the Kingdom of Valencia, wrote a letter to King Philip IV. The Spanish monarch, who ruled over the various territories that comprised the Crown of Castile (including overseas dominions in the Americas) and the Crown of Aragón (which included Catalonia, Valencia,… 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 →

New Medical Tourism on St. Kitts

The late William Halford of Southern Illinois University’s School of Medicine spent his life developing what Hollywood director Agustín Fernández called a herpes “miracle treatment.” Theravax is an experimental herpes vaccine that, in 2013, Halford began testing both on himself and on friends, family, and volunteers. Inside hotel rooms across Illinois, Harford injected Theravax into… Read more →

Dying to Heal: Women and Syphilis in Colonial Lima, Peru

In the early modern world, syphilis victims suffered through four stages of disease over a ten- to thirty-year time span. The first two phases manifested on the skin, beginning with painless ulcers near the site of infection (usually the genitals or mouth), which progressed to blotchy, red rashes on the palms of the hands and… Read more →

Mary Seacole: Disease and Care of the Wounded, from Jamaica to the Crimea

While Florence Nightingale is legendary in the history of nursing because of her foundational role in the creation of Western healthcare systems, she was not the only important woman in this history. It is perhaps unsurprising that the white, English-born, Nightingale’s contribution to modern nursing eclipses that of her contemporary, Mary Seacole, a mixed-race Jamaican… Read more →

The Politics of Sobreparto: Beyond the Medical Dimensions of a Postpartum Condition

Migrant indigenous Andean women living in the lowland Bolivian city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra often mention sobreparto (“following birth”) among the dangerous consequences of pregnancy. This condition occurs after delivery and manifests with cold chills, fever, and general weakness. If it’s left untreated, it can even lead to death. Some of the most… Read more →

Climate Calamity: Lice, Typhus, and Gender in Mexico

By tucking themselves away in the corners of beds and the folds of clothes, insects have long evolved alongside humans. Mites, ticks, fleas, bedbugs, lice—they all feast happily on blood, leaving humans with the itchy, irritating aftermath. In the first half of the twentieth century, rural parasitic insects gained a foothold in the largely agriculture-based… Read more →

Poison and Protest: Sarah Bassett and Enslaved Women Poisoners in the Early Modern Caribbean

In 2008, the government of Bermuda erected its very first monument to an enslaved person. The “Sally Bassett Memorial Statue” is a ten-foot tall bronze sculpture by Bermudian artist Carlos Dowling. It depicts Sarah Bassett, an enslaved woman who was executed in 1730 for poisoning three people. Bassett is a well-known figure to Bermudians, and… Read more →