Category: History

Walking with Yarrow: A Plant’s Military History

Last September, while out for a walk in a German village called Miesau, clusters of striking yellow blooms on tall stalks with voluminous feathery leaves stopped me in my tracks. Given their prevalence, I wondered if they had any medicinal, nutritional, or aesthetic value. I was home visiting my parents, who have lived in the… Read more →

“Not being a man, I wanted to do the next best thing”: Female Gentlemen and the First World War

Vera Brittain worked as a voluntary nurse in France and Malta during the First World War. After the armistice, she went back to university, but by 1920 she wrote that the memories of the war “and its extraordinary aftermath had taken full possession of my warped and floundering mind.”[1] She was, she exclaimed, “Nothing but… Read more →

The Congella Mangrove Story: A Colonial Durban Econarrative

At the mouth of the Umgeni River in Durban, South Africa, sits a small patch of mangrove trees. Birds flit between branches, while black and red crabs pull fallen mangrove leaves into their holes. Boardwalks wind through the trees, allowing visitors a glimpse of Durban’s ecological past. The Beachwood Mangroves are what remains of the… Read more →

Making Malaria History

Recently global headlines celebrated the news that the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended the RTS,S vaccine for use against malaria. While the headlines claimed this was “groundbreaking,” a “major milestone,” and a “historic day,” it didn’t take long for a note of caution to creep in.[1] The vaccine is less effective than many had… Read more →

What’s Old is New Again: The David Saunders Autopsy and Corporate Graverobbing in America

On August 24, 2021, 98-year-old David Saunders died from COVID-19 at a hospital near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Nearly two months later, on October 17, he was publicly dissected in front of hundreds of spectators in a Marriott hotel ballroom in Portland, Oregon. When news of the event reached the Saunders family, they were shocked. His… Read more →

Staging Anatomy for Profit . . . and Punishment

On October 17, 2021, the Oddities and Curiosities Expo hosted a public dissection in Portland, Oregon: Paying customers filed into a lower floor ballroom at the Marriott Downtown Waterfront hotel. On a table in the center of the ballroom, a figure lay draped in a white sheet. The VIP customers, who paid the $500 ticket… Read more →

What Feminists Did the Last Time Abortion Was Illegal

As the US Supreme Court heard arguments over the Texas and Mississippi laws that threatened to weaken Roe v. Wade substantially, my thoughts turned to the abortion rights activists I interviewed in California in the wake of the 1989 Webster decision. Webster v. Reproductive Services also involved a Mississippi statute, one that required viability testing… Read more →

The Would-Be Female Doctor Who Believed Women’s Suffrage Would Eradicate Sexually Transmitted Infections

Edith Houghton didn’t have her heart set on medical school. But after she graduated from Bryn Mawr in 1900, she packed her bags and headed for Baltimore. Her mentor, M. Carey Thomas, had taken an interest in Edith, who excelled in chemistry and math, and encouraged her to pursue further studies at Johns Hopkins Medical… Read more →

Our Work is Not Complete Yet: The Tuberculosis Nurse Training Program at Virginia’s Piedmont Sanatorium

In May 1940, the Piedmont Sanatorium in Burkeville, Virginia, graduated eight African American nurses with advanced training in tuberculosis care. A “Class History” and “Class Prophecy” presented at the commencement ceremony articulated the value of educational attainment, individual determination, and collegial support. As discussed in the Nursing Clio series, Beyond Florence, the history of nursing… Read more →

The World Celebrates the First Malaria Vaccine—But Don’t Expect Malaria to Disappear

On October 6, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced it was recommending the first malaria vaccine, known as RTS,S, for broad use. The next day, we entered a University of Oregon classroom to meet 20 freshmen enrolled in Malaria: Science, Ethics, History, Technology. We wanted our students to know two things about the new… Read more →