Category: History

Subversive Samplers: How an Educational Exercise Became a Tool of Feminist Protest

In the spring of 2016, Edith-Anne’s sampler went viral. Stitched in shades of blue and green and marked with an unusual verse, this small piece of needlework is the creation, not of a girl named Edith-Anne, but of a modern needleworker named Judy Estep. During the early 1990s, Estep published a series of “primitive” sampler… Read more →

When Third Place is a Win

On September 30, 2019, medieval historian Ruth Karras launched a poll on Twitter. “What medieval woman should I nominate,” she asked, to be considered for commemoration in the Long Room of Trinity College Library, Dublin? The famous hall – iconic among the world’s libraries – has been decorated since 1743 with the busts of famous… Read more →

Anoint an Aries with Sheep’s Blood: Finding the Familiar in the Astral Medicine in Ancient Mesopotamia

From so far in the future, the medicine of ancient Mesopotamia looks strange. After all, it’s easy to dismiss the therapeutic use of an eagle’s head as not even qualifying as medicine. One unique and perhaps unexpected way in which Mesopotamian medicine differed from our conceptions of medicine is in its use of astrology. We… Read more →

Butter and the History of U.S. Dietary Guides since 1894

Creamy, sometimes salty, and optimistically yellow, butter is one of my favorite foods. It’s also a scientific and cultural barometer. For the first half of the twentieth century, nutritionists enthusiastically endorsed butter as a good source of energy and part of a healthy, moderate diet. Early government-issued food guides endorsed eating enough food, as public… Read more →

Cancer DIY: Gendered Politics, Colonialism, and the Circulation of Self-Sampling Screening Technologies in Canada

Innovative. Exciting. Easy. Painless. These are just some of the words used to describe the Delphi Screener — a sterile, plastic, syringe-like device that allows women to test themselves for cervical cancer. Requiring no training, speculum, or invasive gynecological exam, this novel technique was developed in 2015 by three Dutch gynecologists who wanted to design… Read more →

Will Technology Change How We Understand Interpersonal Violence? Maybe. Probably Not.

The Atlantic’s August cover story by Barbara Bradley Hagerty, “An Epidemic of Disbelief,” describes how some jurisdictions, in the midst of processing backlogs of rape kits going back years and in some cases decades, are uncovering DNA evidence that is changing what we know about rape. DNA testing has shown that there is an extraordinarily… Read more →

A Bloody Sweater and a Pair of Dentures

Private Togo Piper didn’t have many personal belongings. When he died overseas in May 1943, all that was returned to his family were a few photographs, letters, toiletries… and a pair of dentures. This came as a bit of a surprise to his widow, Julia. To her knowledge, her husband had been in possession of… Read more →

“Immoderate Menses” or Abortion? Bodily Knowledge and Illicit Intimacy in an 1851 Divorce Trial

In 1851, four years after actress Josephine Clifton’s death, she was named as one of Edwin Forrest’s adulterers during the American actor’s divorce trial. Forrest was an established transatlantic celebrity who exemplified rugged American masculinity in both his roles and celebrity persona. In 1849, Forrest’s rivalry with English thespian William Charles Macready inspired the deadly… Read more →

“Who but Women Should Manage It?”: Convalescent Home Matrons and Medical Recuperation

Today we often hear reports about women’s invisible labor. Female family members do the lion’s share of housework and caregiving — not just for their own children, but for any household member. Given that such caregiving takes time, often drawing women away from wage-earning jobs, this care is likely one source of wage discrepancies between… Read more →

Missing Leaf: Placing Cannabis in the American Herbal Renaissance

Given the daily barrage of distressing headlines, you will be forgiven for not noticing that the United States is in the midst of an herbal renaissance. Concurrent with a rising distrust of mainstream medicine and the popularity of organic or “natural” foods, about 20 percent of the American public now report using herbal products. Over… Read more →