Anarcha, Betsey, and Lucy
Dr. J. Marion Sims, the “father of modern gynecology,” experimented on female slaves, without providing anesthesia, to find a cure for the vesico-vaginal fistula. Seventeen-year old Anarcha, who had just given birth for the first time, was separated from her infant and operated on thirty times.
The medical community has celebrated Sims for 170 years, yet most books fail to mention the torture he forced slaves to endure. Generations of medical students learned about Sims without knowing the truth. This series honors Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsey, the only three women who have been identified. Each embroidered piece is paired with a vintage obstetrics textbook that has been altered with an attached footnote containing the real story.
An accompanying viewer activated internet performance piece, Correcting History, is a call to action to amend library books with a downloadable bookmark provided on my website that contains the truth about Sims’ experimentation on slaves. This includes a database constructed of 2,540 books, including thirteen different titles, with the location of libraries in all fifty states that contain the books in need of the truth.