Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Civil Rights, Fannie Lou Hamer, Black Women and Hysterectomy

Fannie Lou Hamer after Beating

I found this by accident on Wikipedia while looking up something else. Fannie Lou Hamer, who later became a reknowned Civil Rights leader, was given a hysterectomy at the age of 32 in order to prevent her from producing children.

If you don't know what happened to Hamer during the voter registration drives of the 1960s, what the police did to her, you really need to.  So please google her name.

Hamer had gone into hospital to have a tumour removed, and during that surgery, the hysterectomy was performed without her consent. This is just another way Black women's reproduction has been controlled by the authorities for generations.

If you have listened to my Cancer Journals, you know that I had a hysterectomy last year as a result of my diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Prior to that, when I was still of childbearing age, two different doctors at two different London hospitals try to force me to have a hysterectomy.

Hamer's surgery was performed in 1961 and she later coined the phrase “Mississippi appendectomy” because this practice was very established as a way of removing and preventing Black women's ability to reproduce. So this tactic, which was common in Mississippi in the early 1960s, was still being employed in London in the 1980s and '90s. I was never given any good reason or explanation for why I should undergo this surgery until my cancer diagnosis last year.

Experiments on Black women formed the basis of gynecology. For more about this, see: 

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Monday, August 01, 2016

Anarcha, Lucy and Betsey: The Mothers of Modern Gynecology

As you may know, the speculum was developed via experiments performed on enslaved Black women.

Dr. Marion Sims, who conducted many of these experiments, has been called the “father of modern gynecology” and is credited with inventing the speculum. 

Meanwhile, the enslaved Black women on whom he experimented have largely been forgotten. They were experimented on without anaesthesia and without dignity, and some of them died under his “care”. 

Anarcha, Lucy and Betsey were three such women whose names we should, we must, recall.

Just part of the history of how Black women's bodies have been treated in the name of “healthcare".   

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