Query: Article or Book on History of Women’s Health Research since 1980

From: Londa Schiebinger [mailto:schieb@stanford.edu]

Dear Colleagues, I would like a super article on the Women’s Health to assign to my class —I’m particularly interested in how NIH research has changed.  What is the best article out there?  Or perhaps it’s a book.  I would like something that covers Women’s Health Research from about 1980-the present. Thanks.


I don’t think just one article would be sufficient but this one is a good introduction to the topic:

Merton, V. 1993. The Exclusion of Pregnant, Pregnable, and Once-Pregnable People (a.k.a. Women) from Biomedical Research. American Journal of Law and Medicine 19: 369-451.

Jackie Wolf


I suggest Steven Epstein, Impure Science: AIDs, Activism, and the Politics of Knowledge (University of California Press, 1994)

Lara Freidenfelds

I’m beginning a new research project on this very subject and will be presenting on this at the AAHM meeting in Atlanta.  Meanwhile, in addition to Epstein’s work, here are some sources that I’ve found helpful in shaping my thinking on the subject:

Bass, Marie.  1998.  “Toward Coalition.” In Rickie Solinger, ed., Abortion Wars: A Half Century of Struggle, pp. 251-68.  Berkeley: University of California Press.

Morgen, Sandra. 2009. “Women Physicians and the Twentieth-Century Women’s Health Movement in the United States.” In Ellen S. More, Elizabeth Fee, and Manon Parry, eds., Women Physicians and the Cultures of Medicine, pp. 160-83. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Chapter One of Weisman, Carol S. 1998. Women’s Health Care: Activist Traditions and Institutional Change. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Barbara Seaman and Susan F. Wood, “The Role of Advocacy Groups in Research on Women’s Health,” in Barbara Seaman, ed., Voices of the Women’s Health Movement volume one, pp. 46-57

Schroeder, Patricia and Olympia Snowe. 1994.  “The Politics of Women’s Health.” In Cynthia Costello and Anne J. Stone, eds., The American Woman 1994-95: Where We Stand, pp. 91-108. New York:  W.W. Norton.

Heather Munro Prescott


Rosa Medina Doménech escribió:

Dear colleagues,

Following this thread , any suggestion for reading on the possible specificities of patients and women doctor/nurse/(other health professions) relationships?


Rosa María MedinaDoménech

Dep. Historia de la Ciencia. Universidad de Granada 34 958 243512



These earth-shaking times are in fact giving us a new opportunity to re-dream our lives, and we should take it with courage (BEN OKRI, poeta nigeriano)

La lentitud es hermosa


Published in: on January 23, 2013 at 5:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Query: Primary sources on history of women’s health

Dear friends and colleagues:

I need to ask your help with some primary sources.  I just agreed — at the last minute — to teach a senior seminar this coming spring and would like the topic to be women’s health since we are starting a women’s health initiative at Rutgers in the spring of 2013.  The format of the class is such that students are required to work with primary source materials and write a 20 page research paper.  This probably means online since I can’t just assume that students can make it to archives and libraries in NYC or Philadelphia.  Any suggestions for collections?  Collected printed editions will also work.  Any suggestions?  At the moment I will take any topic in women’s health — just want to make sure there is enough out there.  Note, this is not an honors seminar — we are “only” talking about a 20 page paper for history majors.

Thanks for your help.  Best, Johanna

Johanna Schoen
Assoc. Prof.
Department of History
Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research
Rutgers University

Hi Johanna,
By “primary source” are you only counting original documents (or digital facsimiles) and not published primary sources?  I have an extensive list of mostly primary sources that I give as a finding aid to students in my “History of Women in Science and Medicine” class—going back to Antiquity and the Middle Ages (in English translation, of course).  I’ll be glad to send it along.  Can’t guarantee, obviously, that all these items will be available in your library, but it may be helpful as a start.
As for online archives, I’ll let others speak up since they probably have more links readily to hand.  I’ve made frequent use of the “In Their Own Words” archive on AIDS research at the NIH that Victoria Harden put together some years ago:  http://history.nih.gov/nihinownwords/.  There’s more on women in there than you might expect, given how long it took for women to be formally recognized in AIDS epidemiology.  In fact, there’s pretty damning proof there that they recognized women’s susceptibility right from the start.
Monica H. Green
Professor of History
School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies
Box 874302
975 S. Myrtle Ave
Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ  85287-4302

Hello! It’s true, I’m in NJ, though so far I haven’t had a chance to explore local archives. (Karen, that list is inspiring!) While I was at Wellesley, though, I taught a class on the history of sex/sexuality/childbirth, and asked students to find on-line sources, preferably freely available, in which they found documents relevant to women’s experiences of sex/sexuality/childbirth. I have a compilation of what the students found, and I can email it to you off-line, as well as the assignments.  (The size limit on messages on WHOM is small enough that I can’t even cut and paste it in without running over.  If anyone else is interested, I’d be happy to also forward the docs to you off of the list.)  I found that asking them to find their own archives was actually very inspiring. When they did the final assignment, in which they worked closely with a single document, they often went back to something they had found themselves.



Dear Johanna,

Here are some digital/online sources that could be useful:
For the history of pregnancy test:   http://www.history.nih.gov/exhibits/thinblueline
For Medicine and Advertisements:   http://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/hartman/  (scroll down right side to “Medicine and Madison Avenue” for 600 ads dealing with health issues between 1911 and 1958).
The NIH and FDA have pretty good websites as well.  Good luck with the new course!
Simone Caron
The Wellcome Library http://library.wellcome.ac.uk, is indeed an
excellent resource, and I would draw particular attention to the C17th
domestic recipe and remedy manuscripts which have been digitised and are
freely available online: http://library.wellcome.ac.uk/node9300909.html
Lesley Hall

Published in: on September 27, 2012 at 3:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Query: Wet-nursing and psychology

I have been approached by somebody who is working on why psychology and psychoanalysis have failed to think about the possible psychological impact of being fed at the breast of one who is not one’s mother, given that a number of founding figures in the field were fed by wet-nurses or employed one for their own children. She is particularly keen to find, if possible, personal accounts that wet nurses might have given of what it was like to feed someone else’s infant for two or three years and then give them up and any records there might be of those who have been fed by a wet nurse.

I have already recommended Valerie Fildes’ work –  does anyone have any current information about Fildes and possibly contact details?

I’ve also suggested the records of the Foundling Hospital.

Does anyone have any information that would enable me to help this researcher out further?

Many thanks

Dr Lesley A Hall
Archives and Manuscripts
Wellcome Library
183 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE, England UK
Tel: +44 (0) 207 611 8483 Fax: +44 ( 0) 207 611 8703
email l.hall@wellcome.ac.uk

Published in: on July 20, 2012 at 8:22 am  Leave a Comment  

Query: Nurses’ Health Study

Dear WHOM,
As I continue my research for my essay on women and biomedical research at Brigham and Women’s, I am looking for material on the history of the Nurses’ Health Study, and the research reforms of the early 1990s, including the NIH Revitalization Act and the creation of the NIH Office for Research in Women’s Health.  (And if no one has written about this, wow, that’s a diss that needs to be done!  Or if no one claims the topic, it’ll be my next book.)  Any ideas are most welcome.
Lara Freidenfelds, Ph.D.
Published in: on July 20, 2012 at 8:14 am  Comments (1)  

Query: Boston Lying-In and Boston Hospital for Women

Dear WHOM,
I am working on a brief history of gender and biomedical research at Brigham and Women’s, for a coffeetable-type book commemorating the 100th anniversary of the hospital.  I aim to include material from the Boston Lying-In and the Boston Hospital for Women/Free Hospital for Women, before they merged with the Brigham.  I am not familiar enough with histories of the American hospital to know what research has been done on these hospitals, but I am guessing there should be some great books/articles already out there.  I would be grateful for suggestions.
Lara Freidenfelds, Ph.D.
From Susan Reverby:
Dear Lara,
There is a history of the Lying-In by Frederick Irving (grandfather of novelist John Irving) on the BLI I think called Lying IN. Morris Vogel’s history of the modern hospital will give you the Boston context
The first chapter of my Ordered to Care book has some things from the papers of the BLI that I worked in decades ago. Virginia Drachman’s book on the New England Hospital for Women and Children will also give you some context. I have this vague memory that Gina Morantz-Sanchez has an article that compares death rates at BLI to the New England Hospital that would have appeared some time in the late 70s.
From Judy Leavitt:
I had it wrong, I think. Laurie Crumpacker gave a talk at a Berks
conference in c. 1974 and Gina was arguing against her contention that
there was a significant therapeutic difference between male and female
doctors. Gina’s article about this is with Sue Zschoche and published in
the Journal of American History in Dec 1980.
sorry for the confusion…

Judith W. Leavitt
Rupple Bascom and Ruth Bleier Professor
of Medical History, History of Science, and Gender and Women’s Studies
University of Wisconsin
1300 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53706
(608) 263-4560

That’s what is in my memory for now.


PS Delighted you are doing this.

Published in: on June 21, 2012 at 9:36 am  Leave a Comment  

Survey: FDA History Office Website

The FDA History Office is competing for funding to update and expand its website. We want to boost its value to medical historians and their students, in particular. As a part of the process, we would like to hear about the kinds of FDA related materials and topics that would help historians of medicine in their research and teaching. If you have time to go to the website, look around, and return comments to me, it would certainly help us in shaping our proposal. Suzanne.Junod@fda.hhs.gov.
This is the general site.
Calling your attention to this newly posted article on Clinical Trials, would more pieces such as this be useful in your research and teaching?
Published in: on May 29, 2012 at 8:21 am  Leave a Comment  

Feminst Currents at Frontiers

We at Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies are delighted to introduce our readers to a new interactive column, “Feminist Currents,” by Eileen Boris, Hull Professor and chair of the Women’s Studies Program at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In the paragraph below Boris poses a question to our readers and all interested feminists, whether they find this column in Frontiers or on any number of postings in cyber space. All are invited to e-mail Frontiers their answers, which Boris will edit by synthesizing and summarizing. Her intent is to cook up a gumbo out of our responses: mixing, seasoning, and throwing in her own ingredients, as she enables us to engage in feminist dialectic.  Boris’s response will appear in our next spring issue along with another question posed by her. We see this exchange as a way to strengthen and enrich our feminist community. Or, in Boris’s words, “‘Feminist Currents’ is a place for feminists to debate pressing and not so pressing (sometimes whimsical but hopefully compelling) issues of the day, to share perspectives and thoughts, develop strategies, and connect scholarship and teaching to social justice.”

A Question:
As I write this question, the fate of health care reform is still up for grabs. We do not know what the final bill will look like or what the outcome will be—or whether getting the people’s business done will trump the misinformation and noise of this summer. What stakes do women have as women in the politics of health care? While scholars have uncovered the workings of gender in the shaping of medical research and delivery, here we want to collect personal experiences and prescriptions for change from feminist perspectives.

You can respond in two different ways. You can give your answer on the Frontiers Facebook page . Or you can email your reflections, from 30 to 300 words, to frontiers@asu.edu no later than September 1, 2011. In your subject line please type “Feminist Currents.” Unless you notify us otherwise in your email, your response signifies that we may paraphrase your thoughts, quote directly from them, and use your name and affiliation.

FRONTIERS: A Journal of Women Studies
Arizona State University
PO Box 874302
Tempe, AZ 85287-4302

Published in: on May 21, 2010 at 11:59 am  Leave a Comment  

Query: Sanitation reform and public health

Any suggestions for secondary works on sanitation reform or public
health in western cities, or available primary sources (we could just
say, west of the Mississippi?), would be helpful. This is a very strong
senior history major, but we are talking about a one-semester, sitting in Walla Walla, WA, undergraduate sort of project — no archive trips possible.

Many thanks!


Published in: on October 1, 2009 at 11:02 am  Comments (1)  

Query: Hospital Regulations

Dear Colleagues,

Does anyone know if southern hospitals in the twentieth century
generally had less regulations than hospitals in the North? Thanks in
advance for any information you may have.



Simone M. Caron
Chair and Associate Professor of History
Wake Forest University
1834 Wake Forest Road
Winston-Salem, NC 27106
336 758-5556
336 758-6130 (fax)

Published in: on August 16, 2009 at 7:09 am  Leave a Comment  

Query: Exhibit of Influenza Epidemic

Greetings, Historians of Medicine,

My college assigns a book for all incoming students to read over the summer, and the library likes to create a display case exhibit on the theme of the book each year. This year’s book is Thomas Mullen’s _The Last Town on Earth_, which deals with flu, quarantine, etc — if you’re curious, here’s the PR blurb:

If you were scanning through the motley museum collection at the college, and requesting help from local historical sources, what sort of medical techniques would you hope to represent in some material
form? European or American, any vaguely early-20th-c suggestions are more than welcome.

Just answer off the top of your head, if an answer shows up there, I’ll promise *not* to cite you if you’re making an educated guess! 🙂 I think my educated guesses are better than the librarian’s, but the WHOM collective’s are better than mine, especially when I don’t have time to refresh my memory.

Best wishes for the rest of August!


Nina E. Lerman
Associate Professor of History
Director, Maxey Museum
Whitman College
Walla Walla, WA 99362 USA

Published in: on August 14, 2009 at 5:17 pm  Comments (5)