J. Marion Sims is called “the Father of Gynecology” due to his experiments on enslaved women in Alabama who were often submitted as guinea pigs by their plantation owners who could not use them for sexual pleasure.
He kept seven women as subjects for four years, but left a trail of death and permanently traumatized black women.
Anarcha was one of the women Sims experimented upon. A detailed history of this monster is in Harriet Washington’s book, Medical Apartheid.
Sims believed that Africans were numb to pain and operated on the women without anesthesia or antiseptic. The procedures usually happened this way.
Black female slaves who were guinea pigs would hold one subject down as Sims performed hysterectomies, tubal ligation, and other procedures to examine various female disorders.
Sims also performed a host of operations on other slave populations. The following excerpt details his “practice” on enslaved infants.
Sims began to exercise his freedom to experiment on his captives. He took custody of slave infants and, with a shoemaker’s awl, tried to pry the bones of their skulls into proper alignment.
We can only imagine what they endured at the hands of Sims and what horror an enslaved woman must have felt at the news that she was being sent to him for treatment. Surely rumors must have run rampant among enslaved communities about what he did to women there. All over South Carolina, Sims has been honored and memorialized with statues and plaques. Buildings, hospitals, schools and streets bare his name. While it is impossible to negate the historical context of his racial, class and gender biases, shouldn’t we agree to apply some standard of humanity to those we choose to honor?