New Blog and E-Newsletter

Dear WHOM,

I have started a new blog with the historian’s perspective on sex, reproduction and women’s health in America.   I also have a monthly e-newsletter that will have updates on my book-in-progress, Counting Chickens Before They Hatch?: Miscarriage in American Culture.  If you are interested, you can email me directly to sign up, or do it on my blog.

I hope you’ll take a look, and consider signing up for the newsletter, so you’ll be the first to know when the book is published!  As a bonus, signing up will help show publishers that our field has wide appeal – I am aiming to publish with a trade press, to reach more readers, and trade presses want hard evidence that authors, and books, will have an audience.



Lara Freidenfelds, Ph.D.

Published in: on March 27, 2014 at 11:47 am  Leave a Comment  

Wikipedia edit-a-thon

Dear WHOM Colleagues,
I just stumbled on this notice of a Wikipedia edit-a-thon that the History of Science Dept is sponsoring at Oklahoma next month: .  “The event is open to anyone who wishes to help preserve women’s history! No Wiki editing experience necessary; as needed, tutorials will be provided for Wikipedia newcomers. Female editors are particularly encouraged to attend. Can’t be there the whole time? No problem. Join us for as little or as long as you like.  The first hour will be focused on introducing newbies to Wikipedia tenets and markup  language.”
I went to my first Edit-a-thon at the Brooklyn Museum earlier this month and it really was a life-changing experience.  As I said to the organizer later, better to engage with Wikipedia than to grumble at its inaccuracies.  That experience gave me the courage to take on what had been a truly awful page dedicated to the Trotula texts:   And I was able to create a new page for the real historic woman, Trota, who previously had been invisible because nobody contributing to Wikipedia was engaging with the most recent scholarship: .
Engaging with Wikipedia isn’t quite as “easy” as everyone says.  You need to figure that you’ll have to spend a number of days getting fully up-to-speed with the editing protocols, etc.  But I highly recommend that we all begin to engage with it.  After all, this is the best way to make sure that feminist scholarship gets incorporated into basic cultural narratives.
Monica H. Green
Member, 2013-14
School of Historical Studies
Institute for Advanced Study
Einstein Drive
Princeton, NJ 08540
office:  (609) 734-8192

I wholeheartedly agree that we need to get on board trying to improve this resource.   Lament as I may the fact that students seem to rely on it way too much, it makes more sense to step up and improve it.   I wonder if it might be worth it to start compiling a list of entries we think need improving so that if someone has the time or a particular interest, they might agree to take it on.

I spent so much time on a couple of entries last year, that I had it put into my performance plan for this year!

Suzanne Junod


Just to cheer you on — it’s not just students who rely on Wikipedia.  I know I go to it when I need a quickie background picture of a topic that’s outside my field.  I would highly value all of your entries!

Speaking of Wikipedia edit-a-thons, Claire Potter and I are hosting one at the Berkshire Conference this spring.  It will be Saturday afternoon from 2-5pm.I’ll also be discussing Wikiproject Women’s History as part of a session on Medical History in Other Venues at AAHM.

Heather Munro Prescott

Published in: on March 6, 2014 at 4:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

How Long Can you wait to have a baby — historical data

From: Karen Reeds []
Sent: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 10:19 AM
Subject: Re: how long can you wait to have a baby — historical data

Courtesy of my daughter (due in August!)

> JEAN TWENGE The Atlantic JUN 19 2013
> Jean M. Twenge is a professor of psychology at San Diego State
> University and the author of The Impatient Woman’s Guide to Getting
> Pregnant.
> “The widely cited statistic that one in three women ages 35 to 39 will
> not be pregnant after a year of trying, for instance, is based on an
> article published in 2004 in the journal Human Reproduction. Rarely
> mentioned is the source of the data: French birth records from 1670 to
> 1830. The chance of remaining childless-30 percent-was also calculated
> based on historical populations.”

Karen Reeds


Comment from Daphna Oren-Magidor []

It is certainly true that demographic studies have used historical data in
order to look at dropping fertility rates. This is true not only for this
French study, but also for other notable demographic studies of fertility,
such as J. Trussell and C. Wilson, “Sterility in a Population with Natural
Fertility,” Population Studies 39: 2 (1985).

However, it is perhaps worthwhile understanding what historical-data studies
usually aim to do. The purpose of studies that use historical data is to
figure out how fecundity works in populations that practice natural
fertility, i.e in which there are no effective means of contraception on the
one hand, and no effective fertility treatments on the other hand. It is
assumed that such populations offer a view of what the body “actually” does,
without any additional aids or hindrances. Now, granted, this fails to take
into account the fact that modern nutrition and health systems may allow for
greater natural fertility. For example, the age in which girls begin to
menstruate (i.e – to become potentially fertile) has been steadily dropping.
It is not unlikely that the age in which women stop being fertile is
similarly become more delayed and that women’s natural fertility today is
greater than it was two or three or four hundred years ago. And yet, it is
important to understand where the data are coming from and what they are
used for.

This is not to say that I have any particular objection to Twenge’s
conclusions – other, perhaps, than the fact that they don’t seem
particularly new to me. They seem to echo what I’ve seen on websites
regarding conception etc.

However,  I’m not entirely sure if using historical-data studies is as
irrational as Twenge suggests. If nothing else, when we look at Western
Europe, especially places like England, some marriage patterns were
surprisingly similar to our own. The average age of marriage in large parts
of early modern Europe was roughly 23-24 for women, and 27-28 for men. In
other words, not unlike today, many couples did not start having children
until well into their 20s. Thus, it is not necessarily true that people
would be done with their childbearing at an early age. And given the lack of
effective contraception, it is unlikely that people could entirely avoid
getting pregnant if they were having sexual activity.

It is also worth noting that early modern guides to conception were
surprisingly supportive of women conceiving late. For example, The English
Midwife notes that ” “there are however many Women, which seem Barren for a
long time. yea till 35 or 40 years old, and sometimes longer who yet at last

Again, this is not to argue with Twenge’s conclusions, but merely to give
some perspective to the question of historical data and fertility.


Published in: on July 1, 2013 at 10:50 am  Leave a Comment  

Blogpost: Intersex case in South Carolina

Dear all,
Here is a blogpost I wrote about the very important case in South Carolina.  I am at the AAHM right now, and I thought some of you here might be interested. Also, if you haven’t seen this blog, Nursing Clio, you can check it out.
Best, Lizzie
Elizabeth Reis
2012-2013 Visiting Scholar, History of Science Department, Harvard University
Professor, Women’s and Gender Studies Department
University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403
Published in: on May 20, 2013 at 9:21 am  Leave a Comment  

Women Historians’ Breakfast at AAHM

Dear WHOM,
I look forward to seeing many of you at AAHM this week!  Don’t forget to come to the Women Historians’ Breakfast, Saturday morning, 7-8 a.m.  Please encourage students to come, even though it’s terribly early in the morning!  This is a wonderful chance for networking and mentoring.
Lara Freidenfelds, Ph.D.” target=”_blank”>
Published in: on May 15, 2013 at 1:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Commentary: Egg Freezing


Something of interest from the medical anthropology list.
Monica Green
Some on this list might be interested to read Marcia Inhorn’s recent CNN
commentary, “Women, Consider Freezing Your Eggs,” and a response
that Lynn Morgan and I have published in The Feminist Wire
Published in: on April 22, 2013 at 11:48 am  Leave a Comment  

CFP: Beyond Roe: Reproductive Justice in a Changing World

Beyond Roe: Reproductive Justice in a Changing World

Throughout 2013, five law schools in the Delaware Valley will hold events exploring various aspects of reproductive justice in the 40 years post-Roe v. Wade. The final event in this series is a conference sponsored by the Rutgers School of Law – Camden that will take place on Friday, October 11 on the Rutgers campus in Camden, New Jersey.

We are pleased to invite proposals for papers and panels. The conference theme is Beyond Roe: Reproductive Justice in a Changing World. We welcome submissions on any topic related to the law, policy and reproduction, including avoiding reproduction, public policy related to reproduction, and reproductive regulation post-Roe.

Paper abstracts should be no more than 500 words, accompanied by a descriptive title for the paper proposed. Proposed panels should include a description of the overall topic, as well as a panel title and the titles of all the papers and panelists to be included in the panel. Panels should include no less than 4 proposed panelists. Panel proposals should also be no more than 500 words. All submissions must include the names, e-mail addresses, and full affiliations of all authors.  In the case of panels and co-authored papers, please identify a corresponding author and provide sufficient detail in your abstract or proposal so that reviewers can fully assess your proposal and determine how it will fit with other proposals being reviewed.

There will be two plenary sessions at the conference and some submitted papers might be selected for plenary presentations. If you wish for us to consider your paper for a plenary session, please indicate that desire on your submission.

Please e-mail submissions (in .doc, .docx, or .pdf format) to by April 1, 2013. If you have any questions about the conference, please direct them to Kimberly Mutcherson at

We invite submissions from other disciplines including philosophy, the social sciences, critical cultural studies (gender and sexuality studies, disability studies, critical race studies, etc.), public health, and others.

Janet Golden, Ph.D.
History Department
Rutgers University
Camden, NJ 08102

Published in: on February 19, 2013 at 10:41 am  Leave a Comment  

New Blog: Nursing Clio

This blog, developed by,
is likely to be of interest to WHOM listmembers.


From: Cheryl Lemus <>
Date: Wed, Jul 18, 2012 at 12:06 PM
Subject: Blog: Nursing Clio
I would like to announce our blog, Nursing Clio, to H-Amstdy.

“Nursing Clio is a collaborative blog project that ties historical
scholarship to present-day political, social, and cultural issues
surrounding gender and medicine. Men’s and women’s bodies, their
reproductive rights, and their health care are often at the center of
political debate and have also become a large part of the social and
cultural discussions in popular media. Whether the topic is abortion, birth
control, sex, or the pregnant body, each and every one of these issues is
embedded with historical dynamics of race, class, and gender. Our tagline -
The Personal is Historical – is meant to convey that the medical debates
that dominate today’s headlines are, in fact, ongoing dialogues that reach
far back into our country’s past.

The mission of Nursing Clio is to provide a platform for historians, health
care workers, community activists, students, and the public at large to
engage in socio-political and cultural critiques of this ongoing and
historical debate over the gendered body. It is our contention that Nursing
Clio will provide a coherent, intelligent, informative, and fun historical
source for these issues.”

We look forward to H-Amstdy subscribers to come and take a look, and even
make some comments.

Best wishes,
Cheryl Lemus

Published in: on July 23, 2012 at 12:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

Recent Publications

Dear all,

Sorry I missed the breakfast this year — and thanks to Lara Freidenfelds for working so hard to encourage broad participation, and for inviting those of us who weren’t there to share new scholarship.

I recently published an article on the medical-legal history of artificial insemination in the US, based on material I presented at AAHM in 2011:
“Adultery by Doctor: Artificial Insemination, 1890-1945,” Chicago-Kent Law Review, Vol. 87, No. 2, 591-633, 2012

The full article is available for download here:

For those of you particularly interested in the topic, another article focused on the research at the University of Iowa that led to the first use of frozen-thawed sperm in human artificial insemination should be appearing in the summer issue of the Annals of Iowa.  Title:  “Fatherhood After Death:  The Mid-Century Origins of the Sperm Bank.”

Thanks to those WHOMers who gave me feedback on these pieces, at AAHM, by reading drafts, and through peer review!


Kara Swanson

Kara W. Swanson, J.D., Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Northeastern University School of Law
400 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115
(617) 373-8288
Office:  37 Cargill


Dear All,

I’d like to share news of a recent publication that Elizabeth Toon and I co-authored, “‘Here Man Learns About Himself!’: Visual Education and the Rise and Fall of the American Museum of Health.” It is online at


Erin McLeary
Independent Scholar
Exhibit Developer, National Constitution Center
Philadelphia, PA


Dear WHOM:

I managed to get four things published in 2011, as I reported at the Women Historians’ Breakfast in Baltimore:

A review of the book on Oliver Wendell Holmes edited by Scott Podolsky and Charles Bryan, in the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences;

An essay (“Anticipatory grieving”) in the on-line Hektoen International: A Journal of Medical Humanities;

An article (“The Library of the Royal Society of PHysicians in Budapest becomes today’s Semmelweis Medical History Library”)–written in collaboration with two of my
Hungarian colleagues–in the Journal of the Medical Library Association; and

A book chapter(“Simpson and Semmelweis: Debating the Contagiousness of Puerperal Fever”) in James Young Simpson: Lad o Pairts (edited by Alison Nuttall and
Rosemary Mander), published in conjunction with a Symposium in Edinburgh (where I also presented a version of this as a paper) celebrating the bicentennial of
Simpson’s birth.

If these sometimes seem to me like small potatoes, I like to think of them as seed potatoes–there will be a bigger harvest one of these years!

Constance Putnam


Sorry to have missed the WHOM breakfast which is always such a treat and invigorating  event which helps sustain the long desert days of work.Lara mentioned that it would be good to send in information on current publications to the WHOM listserve.  I have a chapter in a new book (see below), Instituting Reform. The Social Museum of Harvard University, 1903-1933 which documents how Francis G. Peabody attempted to teach social ethics to Harvard students through the use of visual materials amid the often conflicting tensions prevalent in the early Progressive Era. The book contains reproductions of a great deal of visual material relating to health issues that is potentially of special interest to medical and public health historians  period as well as access to the Museum’s original collection.

I look forward to participating in future gatherings of WHOM, perhaps next year…

Julie Brown

Julie K. Brown, M.A., Ph.D.

Independent Scholar

Research Associate, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution

Faculty Associate, Center for Medical Humanities and Ethics, University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio


Dear WHOM members,

I’d like to draw to your attention some pieces of mine which I hope will have value to those working on a range of historical periods (in particular the e-article ‘Galen and the widow’ which does a close reading of some of the early materials used in Rachel Maines’ work) – see at the end of this message – and also a conference I am co-organising on ‘Retelling familiar tales of pregnancy and birth’, 3-4 July 2012 Oxford, which is aimed at a range of disciplines and periods: see for more information.

Thanks for your time!


Helen King

Professor of Classical Studies| The Open University| Walton Hall| Milton Keynes| MK7 6AA
Module Chair, A219, ‘Exploring the Classical World’ (

Recent podcasts: On ancient medicine, and ‘Gladiator’, April 2012: (NB the full content is not available if accessed on an iPad)

On Agnodike the ‘flashing midwife’, March 2012:

On the Hippocratic Oath, with Peter Pormann and Vivian Nutton, September 2011:

Recently published: ‘History without Historians? Medical History and the Internet’, Social History of Medicine 25 (2012), 212-221 and ‘Response to Shelton’, Social History of Medicine 25 (February 2012), 232-238

‘Inside and outside, cavities and containers: the organs of generation in seventeenth-century English medicine’ in Patricia A. Baker, Han Nijdam, Karine van ‘t Land (eds.), Medicine and Space: Body, Surroundings and Borders in Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Visualising the Middle Ages (4). Leiden: Brill, December 2011, pp. 37–60

‘Galen and the widow. Towards a history of therapeutic masturbation in ancient gynaecology’, EuGeStA: Journal on Gender Studies in Antiquity 1 (December 2011), 205-235 (

The Open University is incorporated by Royal Charter (RC 000391), an exempt charity in England & Wales and a charity registered in Scotland (SC 038302).

Published in: on June 6, 2012 at 9:55 am  Leave a Comment  

Website: Gendered Innovations in Health & Medicine

Dear Whomers,  I would like to draw your attention to the peer-reviewed Gendered Innovations in Science, Health & Medicine, and Engineering project.  This project is funded by the European Commission, the NSF, and Stanford University, and has been developed through a series interdisciplinary, collaborative workshops in Europe and the US.

Gendered Innovations employ sex and gender analysis as a resource to create new knowledge. It is a next step in 30 years of sex/gender in science and medicine scholarship. Specifically, the Gendered Innovations project: 1) develops practical methods of sex and gender analysis for scientists, medical researchers, and engineers; 2) provides case studies as concrete illustrations of how sex and gender analysis leads to innovation. We have about 11 case studies posted and are developing about 7 more.

Our health & medicine case studies include: Heart Disease in Women; Osteoporosis Research in Men; and De-Gendering the Knee.  Also of interest are: the Genetics of Sex Determination, Animal Research, and Stem Cells. The engineering case studies are fun.  I suggest Pregnant Crash Test Dummies, HIV Microbicides, or Water.

The website is intended for researchers and also for our students.  You might find it interesting to use in classes.

All  best, Londa

Professor Londa Schiebinger

John L. Hinds Professor of the History of Science, Stanford University

Director, EU/US Gendered Innovations in Science, Health & Medicine, and Engineering

Published in: on May 29, 2012 at 8:19 am  Leave a Comment  

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