Category: History

The Eye at War: American Eye Prosthetics During the World Wars

In December 1943 Colonel Derrick Vail, ophthalmologist and consultant to the Army Medical Department in Europe, wrote in a memo: “There is a critical shortage of artificial eye supply.”1 Vail was referring to the shortage of optical glass traditionally used in the manufacture of prosthetic eyes in wartime. During the Second World War the United… Read more →

Me, Me, Me: Millennials, Midwives, and the Ongoing History of Female Self-Care

Several articles from reputable sources such as NPR and The Guardian have recently focused on the millennial generation’s supposed obsession with self-care. On the surface, this trend seems to fit nicely with the stereotypes that millennials are entitled and narcissistic. Looking closer, however, reveals that instead of seeing self-care as a generational issue, we should… Read more →

Imagining Sex Change in Early Modern Europe

Once a historical mind starts thinking about the ways sex intersects with the histories of medicine, it’s almost more difficult to divorce the two. Sex itself is physiological, psychological, and, historically, subject to a range of medical scrutiny. The histories of some particular realms of medicine are equally and obviously inextricable from sex – from… Read more →

The Gastropolitics of School Lunch

For Americans of a certain age, the term school lunch evokes the worst elements of institutional dining: soggy pizza, mushy vegetables, plastic sporks. Or perhaps it is the nutritional inadequacies that are most salient in our collective imagination: after all, the Reagan administration (according to popular legend) once classified ketchup as a vegetable.1 Passage of… Read more →

Queering History: Back to School Edition

In his second inaugural address in 2013, President Barack Obama stated that As a high school history and government teacher, I love to show my students either the text or video of this speech. Besides containing a nice example of alliteration as an effective rhetorical device, the passage makes direct reference to documents, places, and… Read more →

“A Basic Issue of Women’s Liberation”: The Feminist Campaign to Legalize Contraception in 1970s Ireland

On May 22, 1971, forty-seven members of the Irish Women’s Liberation Movement (IWLM) boarded the 8am train from Dublin to Belfast. Their aim was to purchase contraceptives in the north, where contraception was legal under UK law, and to travel back to Dublin with them in order to highlight the hypocrisy of Irish law, which… Read more →

The Same Red Blood?: AIDS, Homophobia, and an American Tradition of Hate

This summer, I embarked on an oral history project about resistance to a 1992 anti-gay ballot initiative in Grand Junction, Colorado. I wanted to bring queer history to the airwaves (albeit the low-power airwaves). I interviewed folks who had lived in Grand Junction between 1992 and 1996 to learn about what it was like to live… Read more →

Women On the March

The Women’s March in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere the day after Donald J. Trump was sworn in as president attracted much attention. There were accolades for the feeling of sisterhood that pervaded the rallies across the nation, fueling a sense among liberals that women denied the presidency would be the ones to lead the next… Read more →

The Trauma of Displacement: How History Can Help Us Understand the Refugee Experience

In February of 1915, a fifty-five year old woman, who we will call Ella, was admitted to London’s Colney Hatch Asylum, exhibiting symptoms that doctors defined as “mental stress.” For the past three weeks, she was, according to her case notes, “noisy and restless … she gets little sleep … it is difficult to persuade… Read more →

Falling Out of Love with the Civil War

On Thursday morning, as the President of the United States tweeted his tacit support of the Confederacy, three different friends sent me messages. Each was struggling with the same thing: how do we convince our friends and families that statues of former Confederates need to come down? One friend had spent the previous evening in… Read more →