Category: History

The First Communion Dress: Fashion, Faith, and the Feminization of Catholic Ireland

In late 2012 the Irish Times and National Museum of Ireland selected the Roman Catholic First Communion dress as one of the most important 100 objects in Ireland’s history. A girl’s dress thus took its place alongside bronze age funerary pots and the Book of Kells as items essential to Ireland’s history and culture. Articles… Read more →

The Black Politics of Eugenics

Eugenics is still a dirty word. It makes us think about science gone horribly wrong. It reminds us of the ghosts of Nazis past. The specter of eugenics is invoked when discussing new genetic technologies, often serving as a warning that engineering humanity can go too far. It wasn’t always like this. For much of… Read more →

The Girl and the Grotto: Remembering and Forgetting in Irish History

Walking home from school on a frigid day in January 1984, two Irish boys came across a shocking scene: in a grotto at the local Catholic Church, alongside a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, lay the still bodies of a teenage girl and a newborn infant. The girl, fifteen-year-old Ann Lovett from Granard, County… Read more →

Mail-Order Abortion: A History (and a Future?)

In early November of 2016, while the upcoming election dominated media in all its forms, a number of news outlets took note of a study being conducted by abortion providers in New York, Washington, Hawaii, and Oregon on the safety and practicality of providing abortions by mail. The methods of the Telemedicine Abortion Study, which… Read more →

Whose Body Is it Anyway? Decolonizing Narratives of Aboriginal Prisoners’ Health

When the British colonized Western Australia in 1829, they did so under the legal doctrine of “terra nullius,” or empty land. Of course, the area was inhabited – owned by the Indigenous Nyoongar people who were dispossessed from their land through frontier conflict, disease, physical dependency on European goods, and punishment under British law. By… Read more →

Andrew Jackson’s Love Letters

In our era of political “bromances” between leaders who value aggression and belittle sensitivity, it’s easy to forget that expectations as to how men should interact with other men are always changing. In the 1820s, President Andrew Jackson, whose legacy Donald Trump has embraced, fashioned himself as one of the most virile men of his… Read more →

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 →