Alabama statues honor slaves undergoing experimental surgery

MONTGOMERY, Alabama (AP) – A new monument in Montgomery honors three slave black women who underwent experimental surgery by a 19th-century physician famous for advancing women’s health.

The statues of Anarcha, Lucy and Betsey – three of many black women operated by Dr J. Marion Sims in Montgomery – were unveiled on Friday, al.com reported.

Entitled “Mothers of Gynecology”, the three statues stand almost 4.6 meters high and were welded from common metal objects donated for the project, including tools, bicycle parts, and surgical and gynecological instruments, according to the news site.

“The effort is to change the narrative when it comes to the story and how it is portrayed regarding the Sims and the women who were used as experiences,” said Michelle Browder, the artist who created the monument. . “They are not mentioned in any iconography or information, the markers.”

Sims is considered a pioneer in the field of gynecology, credited with the development of new medical devices and a surgical technique to treat a complication of childbirth. But he also performed experimental surgery without anesthesia on African-American women slaves between 1845 and 1849.

Anesthesia was still very recent at the time – the first public demonstration, using ether, took place in Boston in 1846.

The names of many black women operated on by Sims are unknown. New York City officials voted in 2018 to remove a bronze statue of Sims in Central Park and move it to Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery, where Sims is buried.

A statue of Sims can still be found at the Alabama State House in Montgomery.

“No one is talking about these women and their sacrifices and the experiences they went through,” Browder said. “And so I think if you want to tell the truth about this story, we have to tell it all.”


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