Women Physicians and the Cultures of Medicine

Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008

This volume examines the wide-ranging careers and diverse lives of American women physicians, shedding light on their struggles for equality, professional accomplishment, and personal happiness over the past 150 years. Leading scholars in the history of medicine chronicle the trials and triumphs of such extraordinary women as Marie Zakrzewska, one of the first female medical graduates in the United States and founder of the New England Hospital for Women and Children; Mary S. Calderone, the courageous and controversial medical director of Planned Parenthood in the mid-twentieth century; and Esther Pohl Lovejoy, who risked her life to bring medical aid and supplies to countries experiencing war, famine, and other catastrophes. Illuminating the ethnic, political, and personal diversity of women physicians, the book reveals them as dedicated professionals who grapple with obstacles and embrace challenges, even as they negotiate their own health, sexuality, and body images, the needs of their patients, and the rise of the women’s health movement.



A great introduction to the history of women in medicine. It offers fresh disciplinary perspectives on the diverse experience of women physicians in nineteenth- and twentieth-century America. Scholars in women’s history, the history of professions, gender studies, and the history of medicine will profit from reading these engaging essays.”

— Sarah W. Tracy, author of Alcoholism in America: From Reconstruction to Prohibition

“This lively collection of essays will no doubt be enlightening to the current generation of medical students, historians, and scholars.”

— Barbara F. Atkinson – Journal of Clinical Investigation

“Readers will find much to admire in this book. The individual essays, while diverse, are uniformly well written, well-researched, and impressively documented… Highly recommended.”

— Choice

“The book would certainly be helpful for medical historians, of course, but also for any person—woman or man—interested in the past, present, and future role of women in medicine. Readers are rewarded with impressive scholarship and exhaustive, essay-specific bibliographies.”


“Stellar edited collection… Read this book and assign it for class: it succeeds in leaving us informed,inspired, and amazed… It is provocative, deconstructs binaries, shows the personal tolls and struggles faced by these physicians and their use of science, nutrition, professional authority, and maternity (among others) as means to challenge male medical authority and culturally constructed gendered norms.”

— Susan E. Cayleff – Bulletin of the History of Medicine

“This important volume delineates the state of the field in many aspects of the history of women physicians in the United States and points the way to the next steps in research.”

— Kimberly Jensen – Social History of Medicine

“This collection of essays on the history of American women physicians from the nineteenth century to the present provides the latest, state-of-the-art scholarship on the subject… Invaluable.”

— Laura Ettinger – American Historical Review

“A valuable addition to the history of women’s struggle for fulfilling careers in medicine.”

— H. Hughes Evans – Journal of the History of Medicine

Broadcasting Birth Control

Rutgers University Press, 2013

Traditionally, the history of the birth control movement has been told through the accounts of the leaders, organizations, and legislation that shaped the campaign. Recently, historians have begun examining the cultural work of printed media, including newspapers, magazines, and even novels in fostering support for the cause. Broadcasting Birth Control builds on this new scholarship to explore the films and radio and television broadcasts developed by twentieth-century birth control advocates to promote family planning at home in the United States, and in the expanding international arena of population control.

Mass media was critical to the birth control movement’s attempts to build support and later to publicize the idea of fertility control and the availability of contraceptive services in the United States and around the world. Though these public efforts in advertising and education were undertaken initially by leading advocates, including Margaret Sanger, increasingly a growing class of public communications experts took on the role, mimicking the efforts of commercial advertisers to promote health and contraception in short plays, cartoons, films, and soap operas. In this way, they made a private subject—fertility control—appropriate for public discussion.

Parry examines these trends to shed light on the contested nature of the motivations of birth control advocates. Acknowledging that supporters of contraception were not always motivated by the best interests of individual women, Parry concludes that family planning advocates were nonetheless convinced of women’s desire for contraception and highly aware of the ethical issues involved in the use of the media to inform and persuade.


“Manon Parry’s engrossing book, Broadcasting Birth Control, takes readers through the arguments early sexual and reproductive health advocates had when deciding what would be the best messaging to gain popular support for the use of contraception in America.”
—International Planned Parenthood Federation

“Parry’s clear, compelling, meticulously researched, and accessible book is the first to specifically examine the extensive use of mass media to garner support for the legalization of birth control during the twentieth century.” —Heather Munro Prescott, author of The Morning After: A History of Emergency Contraception in the United

“By showing how the popular media helped win over a skeptical public, Parry deepens our understanding of the history of birth control . . . a subtle and persuasive reinterpretation.” —Sonya Michel, University of Maryland

Broadcasting Birth Control is jam-packed with surprising historical tidbits on ways the media has been used by the family planning movement since its inception. Manon Parry has done a major service to the family planning field by capturing the history of its early engagement with the media and the evolution of that engagement with all the pitfalls and challenges along the way.”
—Conscience: The News Journal of Catholic Opinion (review)

“Parry reveals to us many important parts of the [birth control] story we have for too long overlooked.”
—Social History of Medicine (review)

“[A] fine survey of the mediation of birth control.” —Journal of American History (review)

“Especially novel is her analysis of how communications experts continually reevaluated different theories of
mass communication as they struggled to design effective international family planning campaigns.” —The Public Historian (review)

“Clearly, Broadcasting Birth Control not only makes a significant contribution to the history of birth control in the United States and its transnational repercussions, but also to American media studies. Thus, Parry’s work represents an important interdisciplinary intervention and is sure to be of interest to scholars in numerous fields ranging from women’s studies, to the medical humanities, to communications.” —Medical History (review)

“Broadcasting Birth Control is interdisciplinary, grounded in history but utilizing media studies analysis to take readers up to the twenty-first century and current debates over birth control and media ethics. It is also transnational in scope, linking USAID campaigns in the developing world beginning in the 1960s to more recent birth control campaigns abroad.” —Women’s Studies (review)

AIDS Objects (from 2017)

Fighting, Caring, Grieving, Surviving – AIDS in the Netherlands

The AIDS pandemic has generated a vast amount of historical and cultural material and yet museums tend to collect only a very limited range of items for permanent preservation and for reuse in exhibitions. Historically significant objects and images have been lost or destroyed – in grief, to protect the privacy of the deceased, or because their value for museums and archives is not well understood. As a result, museum collections do not include a broad enough range of objects to document and exhibit the diverse and complex histories of AIDS. The AIDS Objects initiative is intended to stimulate the identification of artifacts for use in exhibitions and to raise awareness of the importance of preserving material still retained by individuals or health and advocacy organisations.

This digital scrapbook was inspired by a lost object – a scrapbook of staff and patient images, ephemera, and personal memories documenting the activities in the Netherlands’ first AIDS ward at the OLVG. The original artifact has not been found and is presumed destroyed. In this project, images from public archives and private collections and interwoven with a brief history of AIDS in the Netherlands, presented in a digital scrapbook to draw attention to the limited collection and preservation of the material culture of HIV and AIDS.

The project was developed in collaboration with Hugo Schalkwijk and funded by the Amsterdam Centre for Heritage and Identity. A pop-up exhibition based on the scrapbook research was on display in the Amsterdam Pavilion at the Global Village of the International AIDS Society conference, 23-27 July 2018.

In conjunction with the International AIDS Society conference in Amsterdam in July 2018, the AIDS Objects team based at the University of Amsterdam is undertaking a series of projects.

Voices of the Epidemic (2018)

It has been more than thirty years since people were first diagnosed with AIDS in the Netherlands. Since then, we have learnt how to prevent the spread of HIV and to prolong the lives of those who are HIV positive. Yet as the early years of crisis fade from memory, we face a new era of infection, with ongoing inequalities that put some at higher risk of contracting the virus, and which prevent others from accessing affordable care. A new film, Voices of the Epidemic, asks people who have been involved since the very beginning to reflect on their experiences and the lessons we still need to learn from the history of HIV and AIDS.

Approx. 25 minutes long, in Dutch with English subtitles. Funded by the Amsterdam School for Historical Studies and the Amsterdam Centre for Heritage and Identity at the University of Amsterdam, and the Public Health Service of Amsterdam.

Production team: Manon S. Parry (University of Amsterdam), Hugo Schalkwijk (Oude Wasgoed) and Paul de Jong, Marlinde Venema and Machiel Spruijt (Jaar en Dag Media)

Voices of the Epidemic premiered at the Amsterdam Museum and in the Global Village of the International AIDS Society conference in Amsterdam in July 2018 and is available online.

Human Curiosities (2016-2020)

€315,000 research project studying the social relevance of medical museums, culminating in a book and exhibition at Special Collections, University of Amsterdam. While the collections of medical museums, including human remains, are sometimes labeled as “curiosities,” the title refers instead to the idea that it is entirely human to be curious about bodies and that curators can harness that interest in socially-useful ways. However, stakeholders at medical museums disagree on the role of their institutions in contemporary society, on the capacity of audiences to understand complex or sensitive medical issues, and on the most effective exhibition strategies. This project analyzes current medical museum exhibition strategies to identify dominant narratives as well as marginalized histories, and investigate their implications for health and wellbeing.

The focus includes four areas where medical museums could make a significant impact: mental health, infectious diseases, sexuality/reproduction, and bodies of difference (addressing race and disability). This research is of direct relevance to museum practitioners, and is therefore being developed in collaboration with medical museums. Project output includes a Heritage Lab demonstrating interpretive strategies for medical heritage, an online tool for museums and their audiences, as well as an open access journal article and a book. The project will provide the first detailed analysis of exhibition strategies across a range of European medical museums, and the first in-depth study to specifically consider the role of medical museums in promoting health and wellbeing.


Dr. Manon Parry is an academic researcher and exhibition curator. She is Professor of Medical History at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, and Senior Lecturer in American Studies and Public History at the University of Amsterdam.

Dr. Parry has developed exhibitions on a wide range of topics, including global health and human rights, disability in the American Civil War, and medicinal and recreational drug use, with project budgets ranging from $14,500 to $3 million. Her traveling exhibitions have visited more than 300 venues across Argentina, Canada, Germany, Guam, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States, and several remain on tour through 2021.

From 2016-2020, Dr. Parry is working on a project titled “Human Curiosities: Expanding the Social Relevance of Medical Museums.” While the collections of medical museums, including human remains, are sometimes labeled as “curiosities,” her title refers instead to the idea that it is entirely human to be curious about bodies and that curators can harness that interest in socially-useful ways. She will study museums across Europe, focusing specifically on the representation of sexuality and reproduction, mental health issues, infectious diseases, and race, disability, and the life cycle. Output will include a book, an exhibition and an online tool experimenting with new strategies for interpreting medical heritage. The research is funded by a €315,000 Veni grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and Heritage Collecitons/The University of Amsterdam.

She is co-editor, with Ellen S. More and Elizabeth Fee, of Women Physicians and the Culture of Medicine (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008) , winner of the Archivists and Librarians in the Health Sciences Publication Award for Best Print Publication in 2012, and author of Broadcasting Birth Control: Mass Media and Family Planning (Rutgers University Press, 2013). She serves as a Managing Editor of the UK journal Museum & Society and was previously an International Consulting Editor for the US journal The Public Historian.