Category: History

Civil War Soldiers’ Wet Dreams

The American Civil War is arguably the most written about topic in American history. Yet for all that has been researched and published, sexuality during the Civil War has been difficult to uncover. This is not due to lack of interest; instead, it is the product of the silences surrounding sexuality during the era. As… Read more →

Race, Sex Education, and the Age of Consent in South Africa

One of the best and most unexpected perks of researching the history of sex education in South Africa is receiving the occasional invitation to talk or write about my work. At the end of last year, I presented a lecture to a group of clever, articulate young women at the University of Johannesburg who were… Read more →

“I Would Rather Have My Own Mind”: The Medicalization of Women’s Behavior in Ireland, 1914-1920

When he brought her to the asylum, twenty-four-year old Katie’s father was asked to describe what behaviors or actions had marked her “attack.” He noted, first, that she suffered from “some uterine trouble,” and secondly, that she was “addicted to reading Novels, esp. Modn. cheap ones. Fond of amusement and gay society.”1 It sounds like… Read more →

To “Serve this Long Term at Home”: Robert Buffum, Mental Illness, and the Prison Trap

Just over a year after having the third-ever Medal of Honor pinned on his uniform for surviving months of retributive torture, Lieutenant Robert Buffum languished as a convicted criminal in the state penitentiary in Frankfort, Kentucky. Once a daring soldier trusted by his commanders to carry out behind-the-lines missions, Buffum had fallen prey to a… Read more →

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 →