Category: History

COVID-19 Didn’t Break the Food System. Hunger Was Already Here.

Like everything else in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, American food has become almost unrecognizable overnight. Grocery stores picked clean of pantry items and baby formula. Closed schools jeopardizing millions of students’ access to meals. Restaurants converting to delivery and takeout, or shutting their doors, perhaps never to reopen. Produce rotting in the fields… Read more →

Understanding Her Position and Place: An African American Nurse at the Stewart Indian School, 1908-1917

In September 1908, Allie Helena Barnett left her family in Atchison, Kansas, and traveled to Carson City, Nevada, where she had accepted a job as a nurse at the Stewart Indian School. Barnett, an African American woman, had graduated from nursing school at Provident Hospital in Chicago in 1906. At the Stewart Indian School, she… Read more →

A Complete Halt to the Liquor Traffic: Drink and Disease in the 1918 Epidemic

When the annual Pennsylvania convention of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) began on October 4, 1918, delegates “rejoiced” that the state Board of Health had closed all saloons, and most other sites of public assembly, as a preventive measure against the influenza epidemic. The most influential organization advocating for prohibition, the WCTU pressed for… Read more →

Living in Isolation and Connecting through Reading, 1930–1946

Amid all the dramatic headlines about COVID-19, news stories describe how people now share anniversaries, birthdays, and other occasions with windows between them to prevent the spread of infection to those most vulnerable to its consequences. These twenty-first century encounters remind me of early twentieth-century letters I read in the Iowa Women’s Archives, written during… Read more →

Writing Histories of Intimate Care and Social Distancing in the Age of COVID-19

In hindsight, it was probably a touch of grad school-induced hubris that led me to assert, in an early draft of my dissertation, that the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries were marked by chronic disease epidemics. I based this conclusion on the work of scholars like sociologist Bryan Turner, who in 1987 wrote almost… Read more →

The Vaccine at the End of this Pandemic

In the summer of 1952, parents didn’t let their children visit playgrounds, swimming pools were closed, movie theaters shuttered, and when September finally arrived, some public schools didn’t open. The polio epidemic reached its peak that year, after several years of steadily increasing numbers of infections and deaths. In early December 1952, The New York… Read more →

Art as a Tonic: Making Pottery and Defeating Tuberculosis at the Arequipa Sanatorium

In the spring of 1913 journalist Elise Roorbach was walking around downtown San Francisco when she passed a gift store. She saw some unusual vases in the window and went into the shop to look. They weren’t finely formed, and they didn’t have shiny glazes in pretty colors. Some were rather crude, with drip marks… Read more →

Luxury or Right? Artificial Insemination by Donor in 1970s France

Hungary recently made international headlines by announcing that the state would soon cover the cost of IVF treatments. Along with financial incentives for Hungarian women who produce four children, IVF will form part of Prime Minister’s Orban’s strategy for increasing the Hungarian birthrate. The announcement attracted international attention in part because Orban connected his support… Read more →

Training Future Wives and Mothers: Vocational Education and Assimilation at the Stewart Indian School

In 1879, the US government launched an expansive effort to restructure Indigenous lives by enrolling Native American children in off-reservation boarding schools. By the early 1900s, a network of federally managed boarding schools emerged across the country to “civilize” Native children. The architects of this system believed they had a mission to uplift and assimilate… Read more →

The Lone Woman of Kokura

She was alone. The men and women of the domain were all gone. In their flight, they’d set the castle town afire to deny the enemy the prize they sought. There was no stopping the enemy now — there were more of them, and they were better trained, better equipped, and better armed. The only… Read more →