Category: History

Ghosts are Scary, Disabled People are Not: The Troubling Rise of the Haunted Asylum

This past spring, the defunct Willard Psychiatric Center (previously known as the Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane) in Ovid, New York, opened its doors for tours — one day only, with no advance sale tickets. I immediately made plans to make the two-hour drive — after all, for the past few years, I’ve been working… Read more →

A Cut Above? Cesarean Sections in Brazil

In the opening scene of The Knick, Steven Soderbergh’s period drama about a fictionalized version of the Knickerbocker Hospital in turn-of-the-century New York City, Drs. John W. Thackery (played by Clive Owens) and his mentor Dr. J.M. Christiansen attempt to perform a cesarean section on a woman suffering from placenta previa (a condition in which… Read more →

All Memorials are Political — Just Ask the Homeopaths

Over this past summer, I spent about two weeks on a research trip in Washington D.C. I decided to take my teenage son along, figuring this might be the last time he ever willingly goes on a trip with his mother. I tried to make it fun. Every day after I finished up my research… Read more →

Obergefell v. Hodges and the Legacy of AIDS

So, yeah… gay marriage is legal now. It’s kind of a big deal. That was about all I could offer in the immediate aftermath of the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, the landmark Supreme Court case that, on June 26 of this year, legalized same-sex marriage across the country. I’d been expecting the ruling for a… Read more →

Why Stonewall Needs Compton’s

One night in August 1966, a group of trans* women and queer youth rioted against years of stigmatization and routine police harassment. It started at a popular all-night hangout, Gene Compton’s Cafeteria, a chain restaurant in the Tenderloin and one of the few places trans* women could relax. In 1966 dressing as the “wrong gender”… Read more →

“I Would Just Want To Fly”: Lydia Pinkham, Women’s Medicine, and Social Networks

“I had been completely run-down. I would try to do my housework and could not. I would want to just fly, if only I could. I would lie down but wasn’t satisfied there and would have to get up and do whatever I could to content myself.” So wrote Mrs. Dora Sanders of 112 West… Read more →

Making WIC Work

I can spot a WIC participant from three checkout lanes away. There is usually a growing line of unsuspecting shoppers lined up behind her while the cashier slowly rings up the carefully organized items. She has separated her food into little piles because she happens to live in a state that still uses a paper… Read more →

Being the Same and Different

This time last year, I’d just returned from three months at the University of Vienna being the Käthe Leichter visiting professor in Gender Studies and Women’s Studies. This position, much like Iris Andraschek’s installation Der Muse Reicht’s, which dominates the inner courtyard of the main campus there, indicates the strides that gender studies has made… Read more →

The International History of Women’s Medical Education: What Does Imperialism Have To Do With It?

For the past several years, this 1885 photograph of three medical students who attended the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (WMCP) has been circulating around the Internet. The students pictured above are, from left to right, Anandibai Joshee, Keiko Okami, and Sabat Islambooly (whose name is misspelled in the original text accompanying the photograph). Because… Read more →

Crimes Never Committed: Thoughts on The Imitation Game

Spoiler Alert: This isn’t exactly a movie review (if you’d like one, I recommend Alex von Tunzelmann’s review in The Guardian) but it may give away elements of the film. Be forewarned. If you watch The Imitation Game, the Oscar-nominated biopic, you’ll learn that Alan Turing betrayed his country when blackmailed by a Soviet spy… Read more →