On Cloth Masks and the History of Cleanliness

Julia Dauer // Cloth masks have become passé in this phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.  With masks mandates mostly gone and high-quality disposable masks widely available to those who wish to use them, cloth mask sightings have become increasingly rare.  In the early days of the current pandemic, with supplies of N95 masks extremely limited…

Jane Austen’s Autopsies

I confess I have not watched the much-maligned adaptation of Persuasion that dropped on Netflix yesterday. But wait, there’s more: I have never read Persuasion. I know. I know. Just as soon as I am finished here, I will slam this laptop closed in trepidation and shame and await the revocation of my English PhD….

How to Talk to a Doctor (as a woman)

Tianyuan Huang // Reviewing recommendations on how to see a doctor from a women’s health journal in 1911, this essay explores physician-patient communication and what the distribution of responsibilities and powers tells us about a health culture in its fast evolving historical context.

Following the Recipe: Scale, Crisis, and Revisiting Vaccine Rejection in Montreal’s Last Smallpox Epidemic

Gabrielle McLaren // Smallpox arrived in Montreal for the last time in February 1885 and caused 3,164 recorded fatalities after the city failed to control the virus’s spread. Municipal authorities even suspended vaccination campaigns after scandalously—and embarrassingly—administering a botched vaccine. The subsequent rejection of the vaccine by the city’s French-Canadian population would become the key…

Health on the (newspaper) margins

Madeleine Mant and Johanna Cole // The recent conservation and digitization of prison admission records from Her Majesty’s Penitentiary (HMP) and its predecessor, the courthouse jail, have made available a rich dataset for historical, sociological, and anthropological research regarding crime and punishment in the long 19th century in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. Our research…

Gay Men and Lesbians, Alcohol Addiction, and the 1970s

John A. Carranza // In 2018, I wrote a piece on Oliver Sipple, the gay man who foiled an assassination attempt on President Gerald Ford. In the aftermath of that attempt, Sipple’s life, including his sexuality, became public. In the years since he stopped the assassination his drinking had increased, which exacerbated some of the…

“As if that ever works”: Herbal Abortifacients in “Bridgerton”

Julia Dauer // In the first season of Neflix’s period fantasy Bridgerton, Marina Thompson enters the kitchen of the wealthy house in which she is temporarily living, rummages among the jars shelved along the far wall, and brews herself an herbal tea.  This scene memorably depicts an attempted herbal abortion, and Marina’s subsequent arc includes…