The Father Of What?

It seems as though every genre – from music to science – has a ‘father’ and sometimes a ‘mother’.  The father of country music is Meridian’s Jimmie Rodgers.  The father of the blues is Florence’s W.C. Handy.

The father of modern day gynecology, J. Marion Sims, is remembered in statue on the capitol grounds in Montgomery.  He isn’t actually from Alabama and was only here for a few years.  He came here and opened a private hospital for women in the mid-1800s.

The plaque at the statue’s base reads:

Montgomery 1848-1849.  
Operations he devised cured a then-considered hopeless malady 
gaining him fame as a benefactor of women.  
Founded Women’s Hospital, City of New York – 1855.  
Decorated by Emperor France, Kings of Belgium, Spain, Portugal, and Italy.  
James Marion Sims Statue, Montgomery AL
There’s another statue of him at Central Park in NYC.  When he moved to New York following his time in Alabama, he founded the Women’s Hospital, then helped found the NY Cancer Hospital which today is Sloane-Kettering.  Today on that site is the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
What makes it curious is that there’s a fair amount of debate about him.  He did a lot of study on the ‘hopeless malady’ that the plaque referred to on three Alabama slave women, one of which he operated on around thirty times.  This condition was more common when women went unassisted in labor and childbirth that would sometimes go on for days.

While it’s uncommon in industrialized nations simply because of the level of care and attention mothers receive, women still suffer from this in other parts of the world (between two and three million women, according to Rep. Rosa DeLauro’s bill that’s in the House right now).

What made me think about this statue was that there was an Op-Ed in the Sunday NYT a couple of weeks ago written by Nicholas Kristof about this condition and a hospital to treat it just opened in Danja, Niger.  Around 1000 or so women will be treated here yearly.  Most of the comments in response to Kristof’s piece were intelligent and give more information about how to help.  

I saw a documentary about it on PBS’ Nova back in September (it’s good):

Watch A Walk to Beautiful on PBS. See more from NOVA.

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