Women Under the Knife: A History of Surgery

Women Under the Knife: A History of Surgery by Ann Dally

Synopsis: 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.

Published: January 1991 | ISBN: 978-0091753313

Mini-bio: Ann Dally was an English author and psychiatrist. Born Ann Gwendolen Mullins, she was the eldest child of the lawyer Claud William Mullins and his wife Elizabeth Gwendolen Brandt.  Wikipedia

A book that makes reading about anal fistula surprisingly fun, but still won’t stop strangers trying to talk to you on the bus, Dally uncovers the history of women as the subjects of surgery. While there were major surgical developments in the Victorian era, there was also a tendency to diagnose emotional, social or mental issues as physically located, leading experimental procedures like clitoridectomy and ‘spaying’ to be marketed as cures. – From 10 Great Books on the History of Medicine

Kirkus Reviews Book Review


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