Category: History

Women, Prayer, and Household Authority in Irish History

Traveling through Ireland in 1909, writer Robert Lynd described “a strange crying—almost a lamentation” that one might hear “on some evenings, if you are in a Catholic house in the most Irish parts of the country.” This strange sound, he elaborated, “was the hour of family prayer.”1 In almost all Irish households, nightly prayers were… Read more →

History at Home in the Tenement Museum

Several times a day, several days a week, I stand with a group of strangers in the parlor of a Lithuanian immigrant family who arrived in New York’s Lower East Side in 1901. I explain that when the Rogarshevsky family observed the Sabbath each week, their two teenage daughters were away at their jobs in… Read more →

Creating Battle Signs: Iraq/Afghanistan War Veterans, Art Therapy, and Rehabilitation

During my first research trip to the National Archives in College Park I stayed with my family in Lorton, Virginia just outside Washington, D.C. Every morning I drove past Fort Belvoir, a large and seemingly endless military base with its own school system and stores, and wondered what the inner workings were like. All I… Read more →

Black Nurse, White Milk: Wet Nursing and Slavery in Brazil

In 1888, Brazil became the last country to abolish slavery in the Western hemisphere. The process of emancipation in the country, however, had been gradual, beginning in 1850 with the final end of the slave trade. In the second half of the nineteenth century, legislation continued to chip away at the institution of slavery, including… Read more →

#MeToo and the Massage Envy Scandal: Looking Back and Beyond

“Massage brings all the weirdos out of the woodwork. I mean real sick people who have problems,” massage therapist Kathleen Dynes told the Los Angeles Times in 1978, explaining she could understand why a local homeowners association boycotted her fledgling suburban massage business, despite her best efforts to make the office, where her mother also… Read more →

Pathology in Perspective: Wartime Specimen Collecting and the Case of Private Hurdis’ Skull

Rarely does a debate about the bones of soldiers collected during World War I enter into public consciousness. But in recent weeks, the skull of an Australian soldier held by Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians made headlines after the museum removed it from display. The Mütter Museum agreed to return the skull… Read more →

Listening to Women: Accessing Women’s Pain from First World War Pension Records

In March 1917, Nurse G., a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurse, was on duty at 29 General Hospital in Salonika, Greece, when the hospital sustained its second air raid in a week.1 According to the matron of the hospital, “in the next tent to where she was on duty a bomb was dropped, completely wrecking… Read more →

The How and Why of Indigenous Nurse History

How do you write a history of Indigenous nurses? Several stories coincide: stories about education, about colonialism in health care, about Indigenous women and work, and about racism in the nursing profession, for example. But one starting point is the founding of the Registered Nurses of Canadian Indian Ancestry (RNCIA) in the mid-1970s, an important… Read more →

Fantasy and Folklore in Childbirth Narratives

Before the age of Facebook and parenting blogs, how did women exchange knowledge and beliefs about reproduction? Without What to Expect When You’re Expecting, how did society and “experts” tell women how to manage pregnancy? These are questions often posed by students in my classes, who assume that “in the past,” there was a deafening… Read more →

Sex on the Border: Policing Women in Red Light Districts

In 2001, a Dallas Observer reporter stepped into a shadowy, smoke-filled room and narrowed his eyes to see through the blinking neon lights and deconstruct the American traveler’s fascination with the modern sex industry along the border. The image he projected, of women lined up against a crumbling wall in a run down bar, tells… Read more →