2017 to 2018
A Gendered History of Pathology: Women, Hormones and Blood Clots, 1784 -1963
My dissertation combines intellectual history and gender in the history of medicine to address the crucial role that research on women's bodies played in the development of pathological theory and public health in the United States and Europe from 1784-1963. Drawing from case studies, anatomical atlases, and correspondence, I explore changing conceptions of blood clots and their associations first with pregnancy and then with birth control. I show that because they were confronted with clotting disorders in lying-in women, Charles White, Jean Cruveilhier, and Rudolf Virchow retained elements of older humoral theories of disease in their celebrated contributions to modern pathology. Given the earlier knowledge of internal secretions and the associations of reproduction with clotting disorders, why weren’t twentieth-century scientists and feminists more cautious with the pill? Although side effects like blood clots and stroke appeared in clinical trials, researchers and social activists reasoned that the pill was safer than pregnancy and emphasized the pill's social benefits for women. In all, the dissertation contributes to our understanding of the ways in which research on women’s bodies shaped pathological theory and also health risks that disproportionately impact women.