Category: History

Ōta Chōu’s Vaccination: Medicine and Modern Girls in 1930s Japanese Painting

In the midst of the 2021 COVID-19 mass vaccination campaign, the “vaccine selfie” – often a self-portrait cell-phone snapshot taken in the car or at the pharmacy with a small adhesive bandage on the arm and a vaccination card in the hand – has become a popular social media trend in the United States. Yet,… Read more →

An Emancipatory Vocation: Nursing in Quebec, 1912–1974

Established in 1967, the first Royal Commission on the Status of Women, also known as “the Bird Commission,” emerged following pressure from women’s groups calling for an inquiry into the status of women in Canada. The commission and its 1970 Report of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada was a major step for… Read more →

Topper’s GI Benefits, Good Homes, and Vivisection Fears: The Treatment of World War II War Dog Veterans

In 1946, a German Shepherd named Topper made headlines in newspapers throughout the United States. Discharged from the K-9 Corps in February 1945, Topper had, according to owner Horace Turner, “not been up to snuff.” Turner sought treatment for the dog under the GI Bill, claiming overexertion during military service had weakened Topper’s heart.[1] The… Read more →

“The Club of the Four Hs”: HIV/AIDS, Race, and Neoliberalism in Argentina

During my childhood in Buenos Aires, adults usually told us to be careful while using telephones and cinema seats because people diagnosed with HIV could hide infected syringes in these “dark spots” to spread the virus. Generally portraying people with HIV as resentful and dangerous, popular representations activated historical racial and sexual boundaries that legitimated… Read more →

Mary Seacole and the Politics of Writing Black History in 1980s Britain

Mary Seacole, the nineteenth-century Jamaican-Scottish nurse known to many as the “Black Florence Nightingale,” has a complicated history in British public memory. After essentially disappearing for a century after her death, Seacole was “revived” with the republication of her 1857 autobiography by editors Ziggi Alexander and Audrey Dewjee at the feminist Falling Water press in… Read more →

Making Medical History: The Sociologist Who Helped Legalize Birth Control

When sociology and economics professor Norman E. Himes published The Medical History of Contraception in 1936, he had made a daring, yet tactical move. At the time, contraception was not, legally speaking, considered a medical matter at all. Under the Comstock Act, which had been in effect since 1873, all literature and devices used for… Read more →

“Blindness and Boldness”: Haptic Imaginaries from the Operating Theater to the Pandemic Everyday

“It’s like driving a car in the fog”: The Operating Theater A torso, swollen with gas and yellow with antiseptic – this was the only glimpse of the patient’s body visible among the draped blue sterile sheets of the operating theatre. Poking through four quarter-inch incisions across the lower abdomen were the tools of surgical… Read more →

Sister Mariana’s Spyglass: The Unreliable Ghost of Female Desire in a Convent Archive

In 1731, Sister Mariana de Jesus, a young nun at the Augustinian Convent of Santa Monica in Portuguese Goa, was caught using a spyglass to ogle the monks at the convent’s brother monastery across the street.[1] Under other circumstances, Sister Mariana’s spyglass might not have attracted much attention. Spyglasses were popular among the sisters of… Read more →

Misinformation, Vaccination, and “Medical Liberty” in the Age of COVID-19

Vaccination is of critical importance right now. At this moment, the United States is fighting an uphill battle against COVID-19, reaching over 100,000 cases a day and counting. Hospital systems are strained and the country’s morgues are cracking under the pressure of thousands of corpses waiting in trailers for burial. Meanwhile, the vacuum of national… Read more →

Liberty and Insanity Sitting in a Tree

In 2011, I participated in a National Endowment for the Humanities summer seminar entitled “The Problem of Governance in the Early Republic.” Our group was housed at the Library Company of Philadelphia, and for three weeks the participants, led by Purdue University professors John L. Larson and Michael A. Morrison, talked and argued about a… Read more →