Conduct Unbecoming a Woman

Conduct Unbecoming a Woman : Medicine on Trial in Turn-of-the-Century Brooklyn

3.6 (23 ratings by Goodreads)

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In the spring of 1889, a burgeoning Brooklyn newspaper, the Daily Eagle, printed a series of articles that detailed a history of midnight hearses and botched operations performed by a scalpel-eager female surgeon named Dr. Mary Dixon-Jones. The ensuing avalanche of public outrage gave rise to two trials-one for manslaughter and one for libel-that became a late nineteenth-century sensation. Vividly recreating both trials, Regina Morantz-Sanchez provides a marvelous historical whodunit, inviting readers to sift through the evidence and evaluate the witnesses. "Conduct Unbecoming a Woman" is as mesmerizing as an intricately crafted suspense novel. Jars of specimens and surgical mannequins became common spectacles in the courtroom, and the roughly 300 witnesses that testified represented a fascinating social cross-section of the city's inhabitants, from humble immigrant craftsmen and seamstresses to some of New York and Brooklyn's most prestigious citizens and physicians. Like many legal extravaganzas of our own time, the Mary Dixon-Jones trials highlighted broader social issues in America.
It unmasked apprehension about not only the medical and social implications of radical gynecological surgery, but also the rapidly changing role of women in society. Indeed, the courtroom provided a perfect forum for airing public doubts concerning the reputation of one "unruly" woman doctor whose life-threatening procedures offered an alternative to the chronic, debilitating pain of 19th-century women. Clearly a extraordinary event in 1892, the cases disappeared from the historical record only a few years later. "Conduct Unbecoming a Woman" brilliantly reconstructs both the Dixon-Jones trials and the historic panorama that was 1890s Brooklyn.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 304 pages
  • 155.4 x 229.1 x 18.8mm | 477.74g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • frontispiece, 18 halftones
  • 0195139283
  • 9780195139280

Review quote

The interweaving of these components draws a vivid, textural picture of medicine as it was practiced in the mid to late 1800's. * Frances K. Conley, M.D., Professor, Neurosurgery, Stanford University School of Medicine * A major contribution to social and medical history, Conduct Unbecomming A Woman is a fascinating case study that raises important issues about gender, medicine, professionalization, and urban middle-class life at the end of the nineteenth century. Sparkling writing, meticulous research, and acute analysis combine to make this work history at its best. * James H. Jones, Distinguished University Professor, University of Houston * A doctor, a woman, a libel case, a trial - the stuff of novels. In this gripping historical narrative, Morantz-Sanchez skillfully weaves these elements into an insightful and contextualized social history pertinent to issues of gender and medical authority still vital to the present day. Highly recommended! * Judith Walzer Leavitt, University of Wisconsin, Madison * Regina Morantz-Sanchez breathes new life into an important episode in the history of gynecology. Her insightful narrative of the career and trials of Mary Dixon Jones, an ambitious female physician accused of murder and mayhem, provides important insights into the complicated politics that surrounded women's bodies and female professionalization in the late nineteenth century America. * Joan Jacobs Brumberg, Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow and Professor * Riveting and insightful, Regina Morantz-Sanchez...offers a spotlight on a critical series of turning points in public attitudes toward American Medicine and gender roles. Combining sophisticated analysis with page-turning prose, this book will alter definitively the way we think about masculinity, femininity and the professions in the late 19th century America. * William H. Chafe, Alice Mary Baldwin Professor of History * a vivid window into late-nineteenth-century medical and social life. * Reviews in American History 29 * not only the most nuanced examination of the birth of American gynecology to date, but it is also a path-breaking work that will be a model for future historians exploring the relationships between culture and medicine. * Reviews in American History 29 * a richly textured, often riveting history of a highly controversial, though now largely forgotten, late-nineteenth-century female gynecological surgeon. * Reviews in American History 29 *
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About Regina Morantz-Sanchez

Regina Morantz-Sanchez is Professor of History at the University of Michigan. Widely published in the areas of women's history, gender, sexuality, and medicine, she is the author of In Her Own Words: Oral Histories of Women Physicians and Sympathy and Science: Women Physicians in American Medicine. She lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
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Rating details

23 ratings
3.6 out of 5 stars
5 17% (4)
4 35% (8)
3 39% (9)
2 9% (2)
1 0% (0)
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