Category: History

Psychiatry and Homosexuality Draft Exemptions during the Vietnam War

When Bob McIvery reported for his mandatory physical exam to determine if he could be drafted into the Army, the doctor didn’t believe he was gay. Although McIvery, a member of the Gay Liberation Front, had checked the “homosexual tendencies” box on his pre-induction medical form and stated verbally that he was gay, he was… Read more →

The Children’s Nutrition and Dental Clinics of Mobile: Public Health, Volunteerism, and the Color Line during the Great Depression

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a staggering economic impact in a short time. Jobless numbers in America are growing and food banks and other emergency relief efforts are struggling to keep up with demand. As we struggle to understand what long-term cultural and economic changes the pandemic might leave in its wake, it is worth… Read more →

Lieutenant Lowderback’s Short Snorter: A Flight Nurse’s Service and Souvenir in WWII

Lieutenant Ruth Banfield Lowderback was nervous on her first flight accompanying wounded and ill soldiers back to the mainland U.S. The plane barreled down the runway of Hawaii’s Hickam Airfield to embark on a twenty-hour flight to San Francisco. On February 17, 1945, twenty-seven-year-old Lowderback, newlywed and newly deployed, marked two milestones: her first service… Read more →

For the Sake of Humans: Animal Casualties and Medical Testing in Modern War

During the First World War, a group of British and American military engineers conducted a series of experiments to determine what kinds of dugouts would give soldiers the most protection from high explosive artillery shells. They did so in response to battlefield evidence that dead soldiers had been found with their bodies whole, with only… Read more →

“A keen vision and feeling of all ordinary life”: Pandemic Journaling in the History Classroom

In January 2020, I showed students a clip of historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich in the documentary A Midwife’s Tale. Ulrich discusses how she reconstructed the life story of midwife Martha Ballard from the sparse entries left behind in Ballard’s diary. The diary covered all aspects of life on the Maine frontier in the late eighteenth… Read more →

Such a Pretty Tsaritsa

In her 2018 memoir Such A Pretty Girl, Nadina LaSpina describes her childhood in mid-twentieth century Sicily, and the pitying comments directed at her, a disabled girl, that cast her in two lights: attractive, but damaged.1 LaSpina contracted polio as a child, which left her without the use of her legs. Her family moved to… Read more →

Talking Back to the NIH

In January 2018, Serena Williams went public about how she almost died after giving birth to her daughter. Williams has a history of blood clots, and when she recognized the signs of a clot after her C-section, she walked up to her nurse and asked for exactly what she needed. But as she tells it,… Read more →

Clara Immerwahr: Science’s Tragic and Surprisingly Modern Heroine

A woman is in an unhappy marriage. After much stress and hard work, and a healthy dose of sexism in her lab, she’s also awarded a doctorate in chemistry. After having graduated with Latin honors, the woman’s graduate research is on the solubility of different chemicals, including mercury, copper, and other important metals commonly used… Read more →

Asymptomatic Lethality: Cooper, COVID-19, and the Potential for Black Death

Black people in the United States have long known that all white people, at any time, have the potential to hurt them. For centuries, white people have had easy access to histories of racial power and deploy them, almost like a pathogen, against Black people. Against people like me. Before the country erupted into a… Read more →

Absolutely Disgusting: Wet Markets, Stigma Theory, and Xenophobia

Since the initial descriptions of cases of a novel coronavirus in Wuhan, there has been a persistent focus on “wet markets” and their role in spreading the virus. Wet markets are similar to farmers’ markets, offering stalls selling fresh meat and produce, with some markets featuring the slaughtering of animals on-site, which can – albeit… Read more →