Haunted Hospital: J. Marion Sims and the Legacies of Enslaved Women Open Access

Dudley, Rachel (2016)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/qj72p792f?locale=en


The dissertation uses interdisciplinary frameworks to examine the legacy of Dr. James Marion Sims who became referenced widely as a "savior of women", the "architect of the vagina" and "the father of modern gynecology" after his successful medical exploits with enslaved women at the start of his career, from 1841-1850. Sims rose to international medical prominence after perfecting his technique suturing fistulas on enslaved women in Montgomery, Alabama. The dissertation applies the theoretical frameworks of black feminist theory, disability studies, medical history/medical humanities and memorial culture studies. Using archival and other primary sources, it reveals a much more complex history of the experiences of the enslaved women associated with James Marion Sims. The Preface and Introduction provide a broad overview and important historical and theoretical context. Chapter Two explores how various literatures are necessary to read this history through different perspectives. Chapter Three provides life histories of the enslaved women and their possible social networks. It offers a speculative and tentative proposal that Sims fathered a child with at least one of his slaves. It then provides supportive information garnered from archival sources such as slave schedules, census records and personal letters. Chapter Four provides readings of Nineteenth-Century Newspapers that appeared following Sims' death and examines the "unrepresentation" of enslaved women in memorial culture dedications to him. Chapter Five presents interview results from health/disability rights activists, community performers, poets and scholars who have completed work dedicated to the legacies of the enslaved women in this history. Overall, I argue that interdisciplinary frameworks are necessary in fully appreciating the nuance and complexity of this history, and the ways in which it cuts across boundaries of knowledge, time, and space.

Table of Contents


Preface: 1-6

Chapter 1. Introduction: 7-16

Chapter 2. Literature Review: Reading History Through Combined Literatures: 17-55

Chapter 3. The J. Marion Sims Clinic and the Enslaved Women's Life Histories, 1841-1850: 56-96

Chapter 4. The "Un-representation" of Enslaved Women & Cultures of Public Memory Devoted to J. Marion Sims: 97-132

Chapter 5. Reclaiming the Development of Modern Gynecology: Alternative Memorializing Practices, Art and Feminist Health Activism: 133-205

Conclusion: The Presence of the Past, the Current Historical Moment and the Future of Studying J. Marion Sims: 206-218

Bibliography: 219-230

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