Medical Bondage

By Deirdre Cooper Owens,

Book cover of Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology

Book description

The accomplishments of pioneering doctors such as John Peter Mettauer, James Marion Sims, and Nathan Bozeman are well documented. It is also no secret that these nineteenth-century gynecologists performed experimental caesarean sections, ovariotomies, and obstetric fistulae repairs primarily on poor and powerless women. Medical Bondage breaks new ground by exploring…

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Why read it?

2 authors picked Medical Bondage as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Did you know that the supposed ‘father of gynecology’ built his practice on horrific medical experiments conducted on African-American and Irish women? Owens’ book exposes how J. Marion Sims’ practice amongst relatively elite white women was built upon procedures that he developed through experimentation on Black and Irish women’s bodies, and particularly a series of experimental surgeries to repair African-American women’s fistulas, which were painful and debilitating tears between the vagina and the bladder or anus that developed during childbirth. Cooper makes a crucial and revealing methodological move by recovering and reframing the lives of the women who were objectified…

Remember when the statute of Dr. J. Marion Sims was removed from Central Park a few years ago? Cooper Owens's book provides the back story: Sims's brutal, racist practices as a developer of gynecology and the equally horrible work of his many colleagues, who invented gynecology as a medical specialty, using the bodies of enslaved women in the 19th century South. Once these white, medical men perfected their techniques, they turned away from their Black "guinea pigs" and offered their new skills to white women who could pay and whose bodies and children were of value to the nation, according…

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