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Multiple theories about what determines sex were tested at the turn of the twentieth century. By experimenting on germ cells, cytologist Nettie Maria Stevens collected evidence to support the connection between heredity and the sex of offspring. Stevens was able to interpret her data to conclude that chromosomes have a role in sex determination during development. For her time, she was an emerging breed: a woman of science making the leap from the world of data collection to that of male-dominated interpretive work.
Vincenz Czerny was a surgeon in the nineteenth century who specialized in cancer and women’s surgical care. Czerny performed one of the first breast augmentations using a reconstruction method to correct asymmetry and disfigurement of a woman’s breasts. Additionally, Czerny improved the safety and efficacy of existing operations, such as the vaginal hysterectomy, which involves the surgical removal of some or all of a woman’s reproductive structures. He contributed to other surgeries involving the esophagus, kidneys, and intestines.
Elinor Catherine Hamlin founded and helped fund centers in Ethiopia to treat women affected by fistulas from obstetric complications. Obstetric fistulas develop in women who experience prolonged labor, as the pressure placed on the pelvis by the fetus during labor causes a hole, or fistula, to form between the vagina and the bladder (vesicovaginal fistula) or between the vagina and the rectum (rectovaginal fistula). Both of those conditions result in urinary or fecal incontinence, which often impacts womenÍs social status within their communities.