Women Under the Knife: A History of Surgery

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9780091745080: Women Under the Knife: A History of Surgery

In the nineteenth century, major developments in internal surgery were due to operations on ovaries. Women bore the brunt of surgical experimentation and also reaped its rewards. Their need was great, but so was their compliance. From the first operation in America in 1809, much suffering was relieved at the expense of prolonged surgery endured by both black slaves and prosperous whites. Later, in the Victorian era, many surgeons looked at certain types of behavior as reasons for mutilating operations. Such procedures as "spaying" and clitoridectomies were performed to "cure" hysteria and masturbation, as well as questionable interventionalist surgery in pregnancy and childbirth which still continue today. Women Under the Knife is an extraordinary history, giving a vivid picture - medical, literary, and sociological - of Victorian society in America and Europe.

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About the Author:

Dr. Ann Dally read Modern History at Somerville College, Oxford, and was one of the first women to study medicine at St. Thomas's Hospital, London. She is married with children and grandchildren, and divides her time between West Sussex and London.

From Kirkus Reviews:

British psychiatrist Dally (Understanding, 1979, etc.) offers a refreshingly evenhanded history of the development of gynecological science in the 19th and 20th centuries--a process, she says, that was neither as triumphantly beneficial nor as deliberately abusive as other historians have claimed. Skeptical of traditional histories of medicine (often written by retired doctors) that represent the discipline as a steady march toward perfection, as well as of revisionist examinations that depict doctors as usurpers of woman's traditional healing role and as sadistic experimenters on a helpless female population, Dally makes use of her own experience as a female doctor to examine the conflicting claims. Describing the sudden blossoming of the medical profession in the early 1800's as a natural result of the introduction of anesthetics, she points out that the obvious, most compliant subjects for a generation of newly inspired surgeons were women (whose organs had previously been beyond surgeons' reach) and the poor (who were willing to risk experimental surgery for low- cost pain relief)--though many strange operations were performed on men and the wealthy as well. While enormous increases in gynecological knowledge were achieved through operations on genuine ailments, such as ovarian cysts, the Victorian view of women as delicate ``vessels'' and the attribution of an increasing number of ills to poorly functioning parts of the female anatomy also led to a shocking number of unnecessary ovariectomies, hysterectomies, and even clitoridectomies. Dally points out that female patients complied eagerly with many of these practices, some motivated by real pain, others by a desire to please, and still others by a neurotic need for attention. Her conclusion--that the history of medicine is a typically human, foible-filled tale in which the powerless are exploited even while genuine benefits are gained- -introduces a levelheaded view to the current debate. Thorough and engaging. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Ann Dally
Published by Hutchinson Radius (1991)
ISBN 10: 009174508X ISBN 13: 9780091745080
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 1
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(Rumford, ME, U.S.A.)

Book Description Hutchinson Radius, 1991. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 009174508X

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