Statues: a mother of gynaecology

Journal name:
Nature
Volume:
549,
Page:
160
Date published:
DOI:
doi:10.1038/549160a
Published online

I have often walked past the statue of J. Marion Sims (see Editorial, correction and apology: Nature 549, 56; 2017). It seems to say to me: “Go away, woman. You have no authority here,” and: “Go away, woman of African descent. You cannot have the intellect to contribute to the science of your own health care.”

Sims' statue stands across the street from the New York Academy of Medicine, which houses a handwritten book from the thirteenth century. This includes several texts on women's medicine that challenge your characterization of Sims as “the father of modern gynaecology”. One derives from the work of a woman in the twelfth century, Trota of Salerno, who wrote about treatments for women: some 700 years before Sims, she described the surgical repair of obstetrical fistulae.

In 1881, the physician Marie E. Zakrzewska, a contemporary of Sims, questioned whether there would ever be a monument to pioneering women physicians. She said, “We need such landmarks of civilization not because those who died have lived for fame, no, but because the now-living, as well as those who will live long afterward, need encouragement for utilizing their capabilities.”

The statue of Sims only encouraged me to ask, which your Editorial does not, why the field of women's medicine has a father but no mother.

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  1. Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA.

    • Monica H. Green

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