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, trapped in Sims’ care, and operated on thirty times.
The medical community has celebrated Sims for 170 years, yet most books fail to mention the torture he forced women of color to endure. Generations of medical students were taught that Sims was a hero and did not learn of his torturous acts, while white doctors continued to experiment on men and women of color.
Each embroidered piece is paired with a vintage obstetrics textbook that has been corrected with an attached footnote containing the truth. 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.
This series honors Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsey so their names are known and not forgotten due to the fact that history and medical books only tell the story of white people and ignore the suffering people of color have gone through, and continue to go through, at the hands of white people. This is a call for every single white person, myself included, no matter how “woke” we think we are, to acknowledge that we all contributes to racism, and to take direct action to support people of color in every way possible.