Gendered History of Pathology: Blood Clots and Hormones in Women

Gendered History of Pathology: Blood Clots and Hormones in Women

Kate Grauvogel

Grauvogel’s dissertation argues that the bodies of women—whether as obstetric patients, cadavers, or sufferers of side-effects from birth-control pills—shaped pathological theory as well as understandings of the role of secretions (later identifiable as estrogens) in health and disease. It also explores the medical and cultural functions of the Pill in the twentieth century and its impact on women and their lives. In it, she hopes to show how nineteenth-century pathologists and twentieth-century physicians observed pregnant women and women on the birth-control pill and gleaned important information from them, such as the idea that fluctuations in estrogens could lead to the formation of dangerous blood clots.

The project as a whole uses primary sources from France, England, and Germany. Grauvogel will add an American perspective from the Boston Hospital for Women Records, 1926–1983, The Free Hospital for Women Records, 1875–1975, the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, The Leona Baumgartner Papers, 1830–1979, the Janet Ward McArthur Papers, 1939–2005, and other collections. She will be looking for cases of lying-in illnesses, including blood clotting, which will shed light on how pathologists thought about dangerous blood clots in women as the result of either pregnancy or the Pill. She hopes to emerge with a better grasp of the ailments doctors observed in women, as well as how they described and thought about such ailments.