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Race, class and women's health

This week we will explore the complex intersections between race, class and women’s health issues in North America. The literature around this subject is rich and diverse and in recent years has included material on black nurses, midwives, particularly in the Southern States, and the experiences of black patients. Several of the themes we have touched upon reappear in this context – inadequate provision of services, poor health status and discriminatory attitudes – but we need to question how far these were experiences solely linked to race, or also class and gender.


Primary Sources

Extracts from Margaret Charles Smith and Linda Janet Homes, Listen to me Good: The Life Story of an Alabama Midwife (Columbus, Ohio, 1996).

The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment

* Susan L. Smith, ‘Neither Victim nor Villain: Nurse Eunice Rivers, the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, and Public Health Work’, Journal of Women’s History, 8 (1996), pp.95-113.

* Molly Ladd-Taylor, ‘“Grannies” and “Spinsters”: Midwife Education under the Sheppard-Towner Act’, Journal of Social History, 22 (1988), pp.255-75.

* Darlene Clark Hine, ‘“They Shall Mount up with Wings as Eagles”: Historical Images of Black Nurses, 1890- 1950’, in Leavitt, 2nd edn, pp.475-88.

* Susan L. Smith, ‘White Nurses, Black Midwives, and Public Health in Mississippi, 1920- 1950’, in Leavitt, 2nd edn, pp.444-58.

* Diane Price Herndl, ‘The Invisible (Invalid) Woman: African-American Women, Illness, and Nineteenth-Century Narrative’, Leavitt 2nd edn, pp. 131-45.

Susan Smith, Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired: Black Women’s Health Activism in America, 1890-1950 (1995).

Darlene Clark Hine, Black Women in White: Racial Conflict and Cooperation in the Nursing Profession 1890-1950 (1989).