Category: History

The Paradox of Thanksgiving

With its odd combination of tradition and invention, its appeals to the past and to the future, its ancestor worship and its acceptance of diversity, Thanksgiving is not merely America’s most treasured celebration but its most paradoxical. But at a moment when we are increasingly confronting the United States’ less-than-perfect history and challenging sacred myths,… Read more →

Nursing Thanksgiving

In November 1820, the Reverend John Marsh delivered a Thanksgiving Day sermon in Haddam, Connecticut that couldn’t have been more orthodox and run of the mill, despite its auspicious occasion, the bicentenary of the Pilgrims’ First Landing in 1620. The town fathers deemed the homily worth publishing, and reading it today is perhaps a slog…. Read more →

“She Looks the Abortionist and the Bad Woman”: Sensation, Physiognomy, and Misogyny in Abortion Discourse

In November of 1866, a minor sensation rocked the Albany area following the death of the young widow Elizabeth Dunham, who passed away at her mother’s house on the third of the month under, as the Albany Argus primly noted, “suspicious circumstances.” The Argus’s suspicions quickly proved sound. An inquest performed the next day revealed… Read more →

Mental Health and Criminal Justice in Civil War Kentucky

The Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition (CWG-K) is a cutting-edge digital humanities project dedicated to imaging, transcribing, annotating, and publishing documents related to Kentucky’s five Civil War governors and making them accessible/searchable online (free of charge) to researchers and the general public alike. Each week, CWG-K editors highlight interesting finds from the… Read more →

Ghosts are Scary, Disabled People are Not: The Troubling Rise of the Haunted Asylum

This past spring, the defunct Willard Psychiatric Center (previously known as the Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane) in Ovid, New York, opened its doors for tours — one day only, with no advance sale tickets. I immediately made plans to make the two-hour drive — after all, for the past few years, I’ve been working… Read more →

A Cut Above? Cesarean Sections in Brazil

In the opening scene of The Knick, Steven Soderbergh’s period drama about a fictionalized version of the Knickerbocker Hospital in turn-of-the-century New York City, Drs. John W. Thackery (played by Clive Owens) and his mentor Dr. J.M. Christiansen attempt to perform a cesarean section on a woman suffering from placenta previa (a condition in which… Read more →

All Memorials are Political — Just Ask the Homeopaths

Over this past summer, I spent about two weeks on a research trip in Washington D.C. I decided to take my teenage son along, figuring this might be the last time he ever willingly goes on a trip with his mother. I tried to make it fun. Every day after I finished up my research… Read more →

Obergefell v. Hodges and the Legacy of AIDS

So, yeah… gay marriage is legal now. It’s kind of a big deal. That was about all I could offer in the immediate aftermath of the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, the landmark Supreme Court case that, on June 26 of this year, legalized same-sex marriage across the country. I’d been expecting the ruling for a… Read more →

Why Stonewall Needs Compton’s

One night in August 1966, a group of trans* women and queer youth rioted against years of stigmatization and routine police harassment. It started at a popular all-night hangout, Gene Compton’s Cafeteria, a chain restaurant in the Tenderloin and one of the few places trans* women could relax. In 1966 dressing as the “wrong gender”… Read more →

“I Would Just Want To Fly”: Lydia Pinkham, Women’s Medicine, and Social Networks

“I had been completely run-down. I would try to do my housework and could not. I would want to just fly, if only I could. I would lie down but wasn’t satisfied there and would have to get up and do whatever I could to content myself.” So wrote Mrs. Dora Sanders of 112 West… Read more →