Category: History

Screaming Over the Rubble: The Shifting Role of the Family in American Disaster Victim Identification

When the South Champlain Towers in Surfside, Florida, collapsed in the early hours of June 24, I shuddered to think about how many lives had been lost. Because of my research on the history of disaster victim identification (DVI), however, I also started thinking ahead to the recovery of the dead. I knew that the… Read more →

The Problem with Medical History in the Age of COVID-19

The pandemic has prompted a proliferation of newspaper articles, think-pieces, and other public writing on the history of medicine. Some have been quite thoughtful, offering new perspectives on the past and present of science, technology, and healthcare, and making radical suggestions for the post-coronavirus future. Others, however, have indulged some of our worst instincts about… Read more →

The School of Nursing at Starozakonnych Hospital in Interwar Warsaw: How Amelia Greenwald and Sabina Schindlerówna Challenged Antisemitism in the Nursing Profession

In the spring of 1923, Amelia Greenwald arrived in Warsaw, Poland, to undertake an urgent task. A nurse from the United States, she was to establish a school of nursing for young Jewish women at the Starozakonnych Hospital.[1] The project was funded by the Joint Distribution Committee, an organization founded during the Great War to… Read more →

When Philadelphia Became a Battlefield, Its Surgeons Bore Witness

In the summer of 1844, Philadelphians rioted with an intensity beyond anything the city had endured for decades. A new political party – dedicated to restricting the rights of immigrants – sought to gain followers by staging mass rallies throughout Philadelphia County. When they gathered in the predominantly Irish-Catholic Third Ward of Kensington in May,… Read more →

Ōta Chōu’s Vaccination: Medicine and Modern Girls in 1930s Japanese Painting

In the midst of the 2021 COVID-19 mass vaccination campaign, the “vaccine selfie” – often a self-portrait cell-phone snapshot taken in the car or at the pharmacy with a small adhesive bandage on the arm and a vaccination card in the hand – has become a popular social media trend in the United States. Yet,… Read more →

An Emancipatory Vocation: Nursing in Quebec, 1912–1974

Established in 1967, the first Royal Commission on the Status of Women, also known as “the Bird Commission,” emerged following pressure from women’s groups calling for an inquiry into the status of women in Canada. The commission and its 1970 Report of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada was a major step for… Read more →

Topper’s GI Benefits, Good Homes, and Vivisection Fears: The Treatment of World War II War Dog Veterans

In 1946, a German Shepherd named Topper made headlines in newspapers throughout the United States. Discharged from the K-9 Corps in February 1945, Topper had, according to owner Horace Turner, “not been up to snuff.” Turner sought treatment for the dog under the GI Bill, claiming overexertion during military service had weakened Topper’s heart.[1] The… Read more →

“The Club of the Four Hs”: HIV/AIDS, Race, and Neoliberalism in Argentina

During my childhood in Buenos Aires, adults usually told us to be careful while using telephones and cinema seats because people diagnosed with HIV could hide infected syringes in these “dark spots” to spread the virus. Generally portraying people with HIV as resentful and dangerous, popular representations activated historical racial and sexual boundaries that legitimated… Read more →

Mary Seacole and the Politics of Writing Black History in 1980s Britain

Mary Seacole, the nineteenth-century Jamaican-Scottish nurse known to many as the “Black Florence Nightingale,” has a complicated history in British public memory. After essentially disappearing for a century after her death, Seacole was “revived” with the republication of her 1857 autobiography by editors Ziggi Alexander and Audrey Dewjee at the feminist Falling Water press in… Read more →

Making Medical History: The Sociologist Who Helped Legalize Birth Control

When sociology and economics professor Norman E. Himes published The Medical History of Contraception in 1936, he had made a daring, yet tactical move. At the time, contraception was not, legally speaking, considered a medical matter at all. Under the Comstock Act, which had been in effect since 1873, all literature and devices used for… Read more →