In an attempt to distract myself from devastating news about the federal mismanagement of the current covid-19 pandemic, I decided to make a linocut of a plague doctor. As if emerging from a nightmare as a cross between a crow and the grim reaper, the doctors wore long cloaks, a hood with a long beak, and eye protection. I searched for images to use for inspiration and a simple engraving print caught my eye. As I went to research more about the image, I realized it wasn’t just any plague doctor outfit, this was supposed to be an image of a real doctor, Ijsbrand van Diemerbroeck, who not only treated plague patients, but wrote a book of case studies in hopes of educating other doctors about symptoms and treatments.
Headscarves, Fabric, and Secrets
Read my article on Het Koto Museum on OZY.
Located in a quiet neighborhood near the center of historic Paramaribo, Suriname, Het Koto Museum celebrates the lives and legacy of Afro-Surinamese women. The museum is founded and run by Christine Van Russel-Henar, who is reviving the tradition of the Koto outfit. She shared her knowledge and passion with me during a visit the the museum.
The Women of the Hull-House
Inspiring women, innovative approaches to living and learning, and pioneering social justice work: sound like something from the #metoo or #TimesUp movements? Maybe, but it was also how women at the Hull-House in Chicago lived and worked over 100 years ago.
While I was in Chicago in February, I had a chance to visit the Hull-House and be totally amazed by these women, who I already knew a little bit about. Here is a tour and brief history of the settlement house.
Mother of Monsters
In 1954, a make-up artist named Milicent Patrick drew the costume for an iconic monster. She never received credit, and may have even quit the industry after her boss, Bud Westmore, gave her a hard time about taking credit for the Creature from the Black Lagoon's creation. She really was the beauty behind the beast.
Read my full story about Milicent Patrick on OZY.
To read more about Milicent Patrick and the history of the Creature from the Black Lagoon films, check out Tom Weaver's The Creature Chronicles.
The Proto-Feminists of Early America
The Witches' Sabbath
Halloween is coming, which means the spooky archive finds come to light!
Let's start by exploring this amazing print from 1510 of a bunch of witches doing witchy stuff!
Birth, a Natural Part of Life
Midwife Problems, and Solutions, part 4
This is part four of a series on midwifery in Sweden and the United States. To read part one click here, part two click here, part three click here.
God-fearing and Faithful Women
Midwife Problems, and Solutions, Part 3
This is part three of a series on midwifery in Sweden and the United States. To read part one, click here, to read part two, click here.
And during all this uncertainty, Johan van Hoorn was hoping someone would listen to him and his talk of jordegumman. Van Hoorn had studied medicine in the Netherlands and Paris, and had returned to Sweden to practice medicine and ended up spreading his gospel of training the midwife.
In Old English, midwife means with-woman, in Swedish jordemor (the jord comes from the Old Norse word for child or offspring) and barnmorska both mean child-mother. In Sweden at the end of the 1600s, most were untrained women known as jordegummor. Van Hoorn wanted to elevate their status, he wanted to make them barnmorskor. First, he put out the textbook called Then Swenske wäl-öfwade Jord-Gumman in 1697. In 1715, he published The Twenne Gudfruchtige I sitt kall trogne Och therföre af Gudi väl belönte Jordegummor Siphra och Pua, a textbook of questions and answers for midwives.
Across the Atlantic
Midwife Problems, and Solutions, Part 2
This is part 2 of a series on the history of midwifery in the U.S. and Sweden. Click here to read part 1.
In Baltimore city, over 150 midwives delivered over 4,000 babies a year, and in every city and town in the U.S., you could find a woman delivering a baby, calling herself a midwife. But just like there were no regulations for doctors, there were no regulations for midwives. Why didn't the U.S. regulate the medical profession? And what did that mean for the health and safety of babies and mothers?
Midwife Problems, and Solutions
(Hey! I'm trying something new here, with a series of short, interconnected posts based on research and archives I visited in the fall of 2015, relating to Swedish midwifery and comparing it to the U.S. Let me know what you think in the contact section.)
Hanna Karlen arrived in Boston on October 11, 1901 with four pieces of luggage. She was 36, traveling alone. On the ship's manifest, Karlen called herself a nurse, a statement that wasn't totally accurate.
Come in, the stacks are open.
Away from prying eyes, damaging light, and pilfering hands, the most special collections are kept in closed stacks. You need an appointment to view the objects, letters, and books that open a door to the past.