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“Genetical Implications of the Structure of Deoxyribonucleic Acid” (1953), by James Watson and Francis Crick
In May 1953, scientists James Watson and Francis Crick wrote the article “Genetical Implications of the Structure of Deoxyribonucleic Acid,” hereafter “Genetical Implications,” which was published in the journal Nature.
Edward B. Lewis (1918-2004)
Edward B. Lewis studied embryonic development in Drosophila, including the discovery of the cis-trans test for recessive genes, and the identification of the bithorax complex and its role in development in Drosophila. He shared the 1995 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard and Eric F. Wieschaus for work on genetic control of early embryonic development.
Thesis: Non-Medical Origins of Reproductive Health Solutions in the US
By demonstrating the struggle for sound standard of care for non-medical reproductive health care providers during the nineteenth and early twentieth century, this project emphasizes what the standards of reproductive health care for abortion and contraception might be like if the organizations that made them so readily available, like Planned Parenthood, were defunded or criminalized in our modern setting.
Format: Essays and Theses
Subject: Organizations, Reproduction
Evelyn Lorraine Rothman (1932–2007)
Evelyn Lorraine Rothman advocated for women’s reproductive rights and invented at-home kits for women’s health concerns in the late twentieth century in Los Angeles, California. Rothman provided women in the Los Angeles area with the means to perform self-examinations, pregnancy tests, and abortions on their own without assistance from a medical professional. Along with Carol Downer, Rothman cofounded the Federation of Feminist Health Centers in Los Angeles, California, and spent her career educating women on reproductive health.
Jane Elizabeth Hodgson (1915–2006)
Jane Elizabeth Hodgson was a physician who advocated for abortion rights in the twentieth century in the United States. In November of 1970, Hodgson became the first physician in the U.S. to be convicted of performing an illegal abortion in a hospital. Hodgson deliberately performed the abortion to challenge the Minnesota State Statute 617.18, which prohibited non-therapeutic abortions. Following the legalization of abortion in the US Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade (1973), Hodgson focused on promoting accessible abortion, obstetric, and gynecological care throughout Minnesota.
Ann Trow (Madame Restell) (1812–1878)
Self-proclaimed female physician Ann Trow was a women’s reproductive health specialist as well as an abortion provider in New York City, New York during the mid 1800s. Though she had no formal medical training or background, Trow provided women with healthcare and abortions under the alias Madame Restell. Restell gained attention across the United States for her career as a professional abortionist during a time when abortions were highly regulated and punishable with imprisonment. Restell was tried numerous times for carrying out abortions.
Lydia Estes Pinkham (1819–1883)
Lydia Estes Pinkham invented and sold Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, a medicinal tonic used to treat menstrual discomfort and promote female reproductive health in general, in the US during the nineteenth century. Pinkham also founded Mrs. Lydia E. Pinkham Medicine Company, a business that sold natural remedies for women’s health issues. Throughout her life, Pinkham acted as an authority on female wellness, writing medical pamphlets about female anatomy and reproductive processes.
Harvey Leroy Karman (1924–2008)
Harvey Karman was an abortionist, inventor, and activist for safe abortion techniques in the US during the twentieth century. Karman developed the Karman cannula, a flexible soft tube used for vacuum aspiration abortions. Karman traveled extensively throughout the US to educate healthcare providers on how to administer safe abortions. He also traveled to Bangladesh, India, China, and other developing nations to promote safe and simple abortion techniques that anyone could perform without previous medical training.
Chicago Women’s Liberation Union (1969–1977)
The Chicago Women’s Liberation Union, hereafter Union or CWLU, was a feminist union that operated in Chicago, Illinois, from 1969 to 1977 and was the first and largest union, at the time of its operation, focused on women’s issues. The Union organized women with the self-proclaimed collective goal of achieving liberation from sexism and inequality. Within the larger CWLU, smaller groups and chapters formed to address issues such as abortion, rape, child care, and reproductive health, among others.
Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound (1873-1906)
First marketed in the US 1875, Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound was an herbal medicine used by women to relieve menstrual discomfort and menopausal symptoms in women. The herbal compound was invented by Lydia Estes Pinkham in 1873 in her home kitchen in Lynn, Massachusetts. Pinkham created the compound by mixing alcohol with roots and herbs. The compound was patented, packaged, and distributed by the Mrs. Lydia Pinkham Medicine Company in 1876. The Mrs.
Subject: Technologies, Reproduction
Trial of Madame Restell (Ann Lohman) for Abortion (1841)
In the spring of 1841, abortionist Ann Lohman, called Madame Restell, was convicted for crimes against one of her abortion clients, Maria Purdy. In a deathbed confession, Purdy admitted that she had received an abortion provided by Madame Restell, and she further claimed that the tuberculosis that she was dying from was a result of her abortion. Restell was charged with administering an illegal abortion in New York and her legal battles were heavily documented in the news.
Hodgson v. Minnesota (1990)
In the 1990 case Hodgson v. Minnesota, the US Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., upheld Minnesota statute 144.343, which required physicians to notify both biological parents of minors seeking abortions forty-eight hours prior to each procedure. The US Supreme Court determined that a state could legally require physicians to notify both parents of minors prior to performing abortions as long as they allowed for a judicial bypass procedure, in which courts could grant exceptions. The Supreme Court’s decision in Hodgson v.
The Dalkon Shield
The Dalkon Shield was an intrauterine contraceptive device (IUD) that women used in the early 1970s and 1980s. Produced by the A.H. Robins Company in the US, the Dalkon Shield was a contraceptive device placed directly into a woman’s uterus that was supposed to prevent the development of a fetus in the uterus. In the 1980s, researchers uncovered an array of severe birth defects and injuries caused by the Dalkon shield, including pelvic infection, infertility, and death of the user. Eventually the A.H.
Emma Goldman (1869–1940)
Emma Goldman was a traveling public speaker and writer known for her anarchist political views as well as her opinions on contraception and birth limiting in the late nineteenth century in the United States. Goldman identified as an anarchist, which she explained as being part of an ideology in which people use violence to provoke or demand social and political change. Goldman was involved in many anarchist social groups and published the anarchist magazine Mother Earth.
The Woman Rebel (1914)
In the early twentieth
century, birth control advocate Margaret Sanger published eight
issues of a feminist magazine called The Woman Rebel. During
this time, discussion of sex education, birth control, and
abortion were illegal. The magazine featured literary pieces on
topics like women’s rights, love and marriage, women in the
workplace, reproductive and sexual education, and contraception.
The Woman Rebel was one of the first magazines that discussed
issues that working class American women faced. Through the
Barbara Seaman (1935–2008)
Barbara Seaman was a writer, investigator, and advocate for female healthcare rights during the twentieth century in the United States. Seaman’s work addressed the gendered prejudice she observed in the US healthcare system and argued that women of the 1960s lacked the proper tools to make informed decisions about pregnancy care, breastfeeding, childbirth, and contraception. Seaman wrote the book The Doctor’s Case Against the Pill in 1969 to expose the dangers in prescribing and consuming high doses of estrogen in the form of birth control.
Carol Downer (1933– )
Carol Downer was a reproductive health and abortion rights activist in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in the US and other countries. During the late 1960s, many women reported knowing little about female anatomy and receiving little information from their physicians. Downer advocated for women’s reproductive anatomy education and encouraged women to not rely on the intervention of a medical doctor for all reproductive issues.
Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, later Our Bodies Ourselves (1969–)
The Boston Women’s Health Book Collective was a women’s health organization headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, that published the informational book Our Bodies Ourselves, which sold over 4.5 million copies. Initially called the Doctor’s Group, the Collective formed in response to the insufficiency of women-specific health information during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Members of the organization participated in the women’s liberation movement in Boston, Massachusetts, and conducted research on women’s health using resources such as medical textbooks.
She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry (2014) by Mary Dore
In 2014, Mary Dore directed the documentary 'She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry,' which details the events and accomplishments of the women’s liberation movement from 1966 to the early 1970s in the United States. The film features commentaries from more than thirty activists who worked to advance the women’s movement. Throughout the film, the activists describe the timeline of events that led to women’s improved access to reproductive healthcare and a reduction in sexual discrimination in the US.
First American Birth Control Clinic (The Brownsville Clinic), 1916
On 16 October 1916, Margaret Sanger opened one of the first birth control clinics in the United States in Brooklyn, New York, which some have called the Brownsville Clinic. Located at 46 Amboy Street, the clinic was a place where Sanger and her staff verbally communicated with women seeking information about birth control. During the early 1900s, both birth control and abortion were illegal in the US, and publication or circulation of information on both topics was deemed obscene and illegal by the federal Comstock Act.
Vaginal Speculum (after 1800)
A vaginal speculum is a medical device that allows physicians and health providers to better view a woman’s cervix and vagina during pelvic exams. Most specula are made of metal and plastic, and physicians insert a portion of the speculum into the patient’s vagina to separate the vaginal walls. Physicians have used devices to view inside a woman’s vagina for centuries, but physicians did not begin using what is known as a speculum in the twenty-first century until the 1800s.
Subject: Technologies, Reproduction
“Some of the Uses of Electricity in Gynecology,” (1901) by William Henry Walling
In 1901, physician William Henry Walling published the article, Some of the Uses of Electricity in Gynecology, in the January issue of the American Gynecological and Obstetrical Journal. Walling was a practicing gynecologist who studied electro-therapeutics, or the use of electricity in medicine for the treatment of disease, which was an emerging topic during the late 1800s. Walling stated that proper administration of electrical current to a woman’s vagina, uterus, bladder, or rectum could be therapeutic for gynecological diseases.
Subject: Reproduction, Theories, Publications
Medical Vibrators for Treatment of Female Hysteria
During the late 1800s through the early 1900s, physicians administered pelvic massages involving clitoral stimulation by early electronic vibrators as treatments for what was called female hysteria. Until the early 1900s, physicians used female hysteria as a diagnosis for women who reported a wide range of complaints and symptoms unexplainable by any other diagnosis at the time. According to historian Rachel Maines, physicians provided pelvic massages for thousands of years to female patients without it being considered erotic or sexually stimulating.
Subject: Reproduction, Technologies, Ethics
Menstrual tampons are feminine hygiene devices, usually made of absorbent cotton, that are temporarily inserted into the vagina for absorbing a woman’s blood during menstruation. In 1931, Earl Haas invented the menstrual tampon most commonly used in the twenty-first century. Later, Gertrude Tendrich produced the first commercial tampon brand, Tampax, using Haas’s patented design. Tendrich and Haas’s tampon was made of tightly compacted absorbent cotton, shaped like a bullet, and had a string attached at the base that allowed for easy removal from the woman’s body.
The Jane Collective (1969–1973)
The Jane Collective was an underground organization that provided illegal abortion services in Chicago, Illinois, from 1969 until abortions became legal in 1973. Formally called the Abortion Counseling Service of Women’s Liberation, the Jane Collective was a member organization and working group within Chicago Women’s Liberation Union that challenged the Illinois state legislature by providing abortions before they were legal in the US.