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Honoring Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsey: The Mothers of Modern Gynecology

Picture of Anarcha, Betsey, and Lucy; Photo Credit: Dr. Rupi Legha

During Women's History Month, it is important to acknowledge and celebrate the Mothers of Gynecology: Anarcha, Betsey, and Lucy. These women were among the many enslaved African women who were used as medical subjects by Dr. James Marion Sims in the mid-19th century. Although Sims is often credited with pioneering modern gynecology, his experimentation on these women without anesthesia and without their consent was exploitative and unethical.

By highlighting the legacy of the Mothers of Gynecology, we can shed light on the history of medical experimentation on marginalized communities and honor the resilience of Black women in the face of oppression. Let us use this month to remember the importance of inclusivity and justice in healthcare.

Interested in learning more? Check out the NPR interview between Shankar Vedantam, historian Vanessa Gamble and poet Bettina Judd about the troubling history of medical experimentation on African Americans.

Illustration of Dr. J. Marion Sims with Anarcha by Robert Thom. Courtesy of Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Pearson Museum.

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