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NLM History Talks: Current

History Talks in 2024

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    Anorexia in the Archives: Documenting the Late Twentieth Century Rise in Eating Disorders

    Alice Weinreb, PhD — Associate Professor of History, Loyola University Chicago

    2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. ET — This talk will be live-streamed globally, and archived on NLM's YouTube Channel and NIH VideoCasting.

    Read an interview with Alice Weinreb on our blog Circulating Now.  | Watch on YouTube

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    During the 1970s and 1980s, anorexia nervosa moved from being an obscure affliction to having epidemic status. The explosion in eating disorders during these years required the creation of new hospital wings and specialized clinics around the world; it also inspired hundreds of successful movies and young-adult novels, shaped popular conceptualization of adolescence, led to new thinking about body dysmorphia and trauma, and had a major impact on theorists of both capitalism and feminism. Eating disorders were so pressing both because they were so devastating but also because they were spreading so rapidly and inexplicably. This talk will analyze a variety of voices that grapple with the cause and meaning of this new category of mental illness. These sources include materials on medical education from the NLM collections; clinical and hospital records; self-help support group documentation; patient diaries; TV and film; and feminist writings from Germany, Italy, the US, and Great Britain. Taken together, they document the multiple meanings of anorexia and bulimia in the modern world.

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    (Un)fit to Nurse: Efficiency and Discipline at the Philippine General Hospital, 1898–1916

    Ren Capucao, MSN, RN, PhD Candidate — Bjoring Center for Nursing Historical Inquiry, School of Nursing, University of Virginia

    2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. ET — This talk will be live-streamed globally, and archived on NLM's YouTube Channel and NIH VideoCasting.

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    On August 29, 1916, a strike of over 100 student nurses erupted at the Philippine General Hospital, placing its operations at a standstill for two days. The student nurses rallied around the suicide of fellow student Florentina Papa, alleging the disciplinary culture of the hospital was at fault. Tensions between the students and the administrators, however, had been escalating since May when the director of the hospital mandated more intensive physical training into the curriculum to improve the efficiency of nursing services. This presentation explores the strike amidst the formative years of Philippine nursing under the American insular government and the racialized and gendered discourse of (dis)ability that marked the bodies and minds of Filipino nurses. It draws on extensive records from the NLM, the National Archives, and the University of the Philippines Manila Heritage Project.

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    Burning Contagion: Organized Arson in Response to Quarantine Facilities and Pest Houses, 1858-1901

    Lorna Ebner, PhD Candidate — History Department, The State University of New York, Stony Brook

    2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. ET — This talk will be live-streamed globally, and archived on NLM's YouTube Channel and NIH VideoCasting.

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    Throughout the 19th century, communities in the United States committed arson against healthcare facilities that housed the diseased. Local and national newspapers often described the resulting damage as the actions of a “lawless mob.” A closer reading of these incidents reveals local communities put at risk by facilities that actively caused them harm while benefitting other parties. This talk suggests that these events were organized acts of self-defense borne of medical knowledge, rather than rash mobs acting through fear or ignorance, and will highlight two such incidents, one in Staten Island, New York and another in Orange, New Jersey. The National Library of Medicine houses a pamphlet from the Staten Island episode meant to ascertain the continued efficacy of a Quarantine Hospital among an ever growing population. In the conclusion, the committee described the institution as “the unholy alliance of a pauper establishment with a Health Department.” A case study of the events surrounding each unveils the overarching social and cultural trends that culminated in common acts of arson.

    Photo courtesy Karl Rabe, Vassar College

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    Assailed at Home; Champions Abroad: The ACNM’s Push for Maternal Healthcare Advancements in Nigeria

    Ogechukwu Williams, PhD — Assistant Professor, Department of History and Department of Medical Humanities Creighton University, and 2022 NLM Michael E. DeBakey Fellow

    2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. ET — This talk will be live-streamed globally, and archived on NLM's YouTube Channel and NIH VideoCasting.

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    In 1982, the American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM) created a Special Projects Section (SPS) whose goal was to combat deteriorating maternal and infant health, improve the lives of women, and advance the field of midwifery. By the late 1980s, the SPS adopted an increasingly international focus with notable Safe Motherhood projects in Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, and Kenya aimed at combating maternal deaths, promoting family planning services, and strengthening midwifery programs. At the backdrop of these international projects was a maternal healthcare crisis in the US and a sustained rift between nurse-midwives and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) over the legality, scope, and practice of midwifery in America. Drawing from multiple sources, notably the NLM’s extensive collection on the American College of Nurse-Midwives, I examine the ACNM’s maternal and reproductive health advocacy work in Nigeria during the 1980s and 1990s while fighting for autonomy, recognition, and better maternal welfare policies at home.

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    Visionary Technology: Exploring Eyeglasses and Impairment in the NLM’s Collections

    Rachael Gillibrand, PhD — University of Leeds

    2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. ET — This talk will be live-streamed globally, and archived on NLM's YouTube Channel and NIH VideoCasting.

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    Join Dr. Rachael Gillibrand as she explores the connections between eye impairments and the creation of eyeglasses, using the collections of the National Library of Medicine (NLM). The talk will highlight items from her 'ocular impairment' resource collection, accessible through the Medical Heritage Library, as well as materials used in her forthcoming book on premodern disability. Together, we will dive into the pages of historical texts, including Guy de Chauliac's Chyrurgia, Bartholomeus Anglicus' De proprietatibus rerum and the writings of Ambroise Paré, to explore how ocular health has influenced the design of eyeglasses throughout history.

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    In the Pursuit of Mental Well-being: Robert H. Felix and His Role in the Establishment of Mental Health in America

    Namhee Lee, PhD — Research Professor, Ewha Institute of History, Ewha Womans University, South Korea

    2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. ET — This talk will be live-streamed globally, and archived on NLM's YouTube Channel and NIH VideoCasting.

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    Dr. Lee’s talk will address mental well-being in mid-20th century America. Realizing the necessity of a comprehensive plan for mental health in the U.S. after World War II, the discipline of psychiatry found themselves unprepared for the new blueprint. To overcome the long-existing limits, psychiatry needed to transform its old look which had seemingly been esoteric, institution-based, and even unscientific. The National Mental Health Act of 1946 was a striking signal to break away from its unpopular image of discipline. Robert H. Felix, the first director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), was one of the significant players in determining the trajectory of the future mental health plan. This talk focuses on Dr. Felix’s role in the installation and formation of the country’s mental well-being and his philosophy on mental health itself based on the Robert H. Felix papers from the National Library of Medicine.

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About the NLM History Talks

These talks sponsored by the NLM History of Medicine Division promote awareness and use of NLM and related historical collections for research, education, and public service in biomedicine, the social sciences, and the humanities. The series also supports the commitment of the NLM to recognize the diversity of its collections—which span ten centuries, encompass a range of digital and physical formats, and originate from nearly every part of the globe—and to foreground the voices of people of color, women, and individuals of a variety of cultural and disciplinary backgrounds who value these collections and use them to advance their research, teaching, and learning.

Stay informed about NLM History Talks on Twitter at #NLMHistTalk.


All talks are free and until further notice will be held virtually, closed-captioned live, live-streamed globally, and subsequently archived on NLM’s YouTube channel andNIH VideoCasting. Livestreaming and archiving of all NLM History Talks are made possible through a generous gift to the NLM from the Michael E. DeBakey Medical Foundation. The NLM is authorized to accept donations in support of its mission.

To request reasonable accommodations to participate in this event contact the NLM Support Center. Requests should be made as early as possible to allow time for coordination.

Last Reviewed: December 27, 2023