Category: History

Sisterhood Subpoenaed: Abortion on Trial at an 1892 Women’s Medical College

Courtroom dramas are a television staple. If the Good Wife isn’t your cup of tea, there is Law and Order, How to Get Away with Murder, Suits, or Judge Judy. These programs invite the viewer into the courtroom, to envisage themselves as the advocate, the judge, the jury, or the defendant. However, such role-play is… Read more →

Mothers’ Natures: Sex, Love, and Degeneration in the Nineteenth-Century United States

Every so often, some viral article or other will declare that science “proves” or “confirms” that intelligence is inherited from mothers. (I know, because my own mother will promptly share it on Facebook.) Swiftly, of course, revisionary articles will appear correcting or debunking this claim, chastising armchair geneticists for their overly-simplistic understandings of the X-chromosome…. Read more →

The Second Sentence: AIDS in Dublin’s Mountjoy Prison

In January 1986, Irish current affairs program Today Tonight reported on a spate of deaths and attempted suicides in Dublin’s Mountjoy prison. These, the reporter intoned, “reveal something seriously wrong in the Irish prison system. A system long-known to be overstretched, antiquated and inadequate has been pushed into the front line of modern Irish society’s… Read more →

Buried Secrets, Living Children: Secrecy, Shame, and Sealed Adoption Records

Between 1945 and 1973, single mothers in the United States gave birth in an era of secrecy and shame that historians of adoption call the Baby Scoop Era (BSE).1 During this time, millions of unwed mothers gave birth to children who they often unwillingly relinquished for adoption. Although precise numbers are elusive, as many as… Read more →

Caring for Women Veterans: A Brief History of the Cowdray Club

We are quickly approaching the 1918 centennial, commemorating the end of the First World War, with ceremonies and events being planned around the world. It’s increasingly important, however, to realize that for those who served in and survived the First World War, the end of hostilities did not mean a return to the world as… Read more →

Male Jealousy & Questions of Sexual Honor: A Look at Historical Cases of Domestic Murder in Ireland

At present in Ireland, a Domestic Violence Bill is rumbling its way through the Irish parliament, a welcome albeit overdue development. Louise Crowley has noted that failures to enshrine domestic violence as a discrete criminal offense have gone hand-in-hand with Ireland’s historic reluctance to intervene in such cases. A look at gendered violence in Ireland,… Read more →

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 →