Category: History

Eyes of the Beholder: The Public Health Service Reports on Trachoma in White Appalachia and Indian Country

In 1912, the United States Public Health Service (PHS) set out to survey trachoma rates among two populations: Appalachian Whites in Kentucky and American Indians. I knew about the American Indian survey from my dissertation research on Native health in the early twentieth century. But when I read the report from that study, I was… Read more →

Huddled Masses Yearning to Breathe Free: Tuberculosis in Progressive Era New York City

Since January, Americans have grappled with the implications of the Trump Administration’s continued efforts to suspend immigration from six (originally seven) predominantly Muslim countries. The tones of fear and moral outrage sound eerily similar to those from more than a century earlier, when anxious nativists sought to halt the flow of millions of impoverished Jews… Read more →

Inclusive Health Services for Women: More than Just Tote Bags

In Silver City, New Mexico, a small print company has raised over seventy thousand dollars for Planned Parenthood through a simple tote bag. PP services are printed on the tote, in a list so long, it barely fits on the bag. Power and Light Press sell these bags “in the name of Planned Parenthood [as]… Read more →

Who Gets a Bathroom Pass? The History of School Bathrooms

Gavin Grimm is a 17-year-old boy, who like millions of other school children, simply wants to be able to attend to basic bodily functions while at school. Last year, Gavin stood in front of his school district’s board of education and said, “I am just a human. I am just a boy. Please consider my… Read more →

Sex and the Civil War

The image of Donald Trump signing an order reinstating the global gag rule this February was striking. Surrounded by a group of men — and one woman, all of them white — Trump approved an order that will affect millions of women and girls around the world who rely on programs supported by the United… Read more →

Gender-Bending in Thirteenth-Century Literature: The Roman de Silence

Do genetics or environmental factors determine one’s gender identity? The question may seem a distinctly modern one. Indeed, premodern people — and especially medieval ones — are often considered naively incapable of even pondering such concepts. We assume it was a simpler time, long before the theoretical legwork of social constructionism and so much feminist… Read more →

“Buried with Doctor’s Certificate”: Reading the Uses and Abuses of Bodies in a Medical School Thesis

In 1886, Marie K. Formad graduated from the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, entering the small but rapidly growing body of American women holding the degree of Doctor of Medicine. Along with Dr. Formad, the 31 other members of the class of 1886 demonstrated clearly the progress of women’s medical education in the thirty years… Read more →

Bradley Snyder and the Legacy of First World War Blind Veteran Rehabilitation

On April 30 People Magazine featured a story on Brad Snyder, a young swimmer seeking a gold medal at the summer Olympics in Rio this year. Snyder’s journey is extraordinary in and of itself, having served two tours of duty in the Middle East as a bomb disposal technician. The story is perhaps most intriguing,… Read more →

Disproving Self-Indulgence: Congenital Addiction in the Early Twentieth Century

On October 10, 1989, police arrived at the Medical University of South Carolina. They handcuffed Lori Griffin, a black girl not yet eighteen, and arrested her for distributing cocaine to a minor. That minor was her newborn child — distribution took place through the placenta. The police came because Lori’s urine had tested positive for… Read more →

Venus Revisited

“Creepy.” “Weird.” “Messed. Up.” Such are the visceral responses of my women’s history students to an admittedly bizarre and complex historical phenomenon: the Anatomical Venus. Designed to be realistic and anatomically correct wax models of the female body, Anatomical Venuses emerged in eighteenth-century Europe (primarily Spain, Italy, and Austria) to help train medical students who… Read more →