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Struggle for Reproductive Rights the Focus of New Lecture Series

By Shaye Weaver | August 22, 2017 7:42am
 Men stand outside the National Anti-Suffrage Association headquarters around 1911.
Men stand outside the National Anti-Suffrage Association headquarters around 1911.
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Courtesy of the Library of Congress and Museum of the City of New York

EAST HARLEM — A Scottish woman was burned at the stake in the Middle Ages for wanting pain relief during the birth of her two twins, and for centuries women were told by male physicians what to eat, drink and think to speed up labor or get the gender of her choice.

Experts will discuss these and other issues concerning reproductive rights in a new three-part series, "Who Controls Women's Health? A Century of Struggle," hosted by the Museum of the City of New York and the New York Academy of Medicine.

Experts, authors and advocates will lecture about the history of childbirth, the fight for reproductive rights and the feminist movement for equality over the course of three nights in August, September and October.

The organizations each wanted to celebrate a century of women being involved in political activism in New York City — from winning the right to vote to struggling to redefine their roles and gain equal rights, according to MCNY executive director Whitney Donhauser.

"As we prepare to celebrate the centennial of women’s suffrage in New York this fall, we felt it was important to have an earnest and in-depth discussion on the ways in which women across the country remain locked in battles over the ability to control their own bodies," she said.

"This series combines a deep dive into the history behind the issues with firsthand accounts from activists and new ideas on what the future in the fight for women’s rights may look like. It should be as informative as it is thought provoking.”

The free series, which is being done in connection with the MCNY exhibition "Beyond Suffrage," will also feature historical evidence and photos taken from the Academy of Medicine's library collections.

Here's what's on the schedule:

► "Get Me Out: Childbirth in the Early 20th Century"

Where: The New York Academy of Medicine, 1216 Fifth Ave.
When: Tuesday, Aug. 22 at 6:30 p.m.

Randi Hutter Epstein, the author of a book on women's health and childbirth through the ages, will speak about the approaches taken by doctors, "medical" charlatans and feminist activists since the beginning of time. Peter Schafer, the director of Family Health and Disparities at the Academy, will join in on the conversation.

► "On the Front Lines of Reproductive Rights"

Where: The Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Ave.
When: Wednesday, Sept. 13 at 6:30 p.m.

Sit in on a chat between Faye Wattleton, the first African-American woman to lead Planned Parenthood in America since Margaret Sanger founded it, and women and gender studies scholar Marcela Micucci, about the history of women's access to birth control and the role Planned Parenthood has played in women's reproductive freedom.

► "More than Medicine: Social Justice and Feminist Movements for Health"

Where: The New York Academy of Medicine, 1216 Fifth Ave.
When: Thursday, Oct. 5 at 6:30 p.m.

Learn about how feminists from the 1970s through the '90s developed their own women's health movement in light of expected health care changes. Historian Jennifer Nelson will present a history and have a discussion afterward with Sarah Seidman, the curator of Social Activism at MCNY.

The events are free, but registration online is encouraged.