A Dr J Marion Sims Dossier Essay

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A Dr. J. Marion Sims Dossier Essay, Research Paper Among the immortalized on the Alabama Capitol grounds is a 19th century physician known as the father of gynecology. Represented by the second of two bronze sculptures facing Dexter Avenue on the right of the marble steps, Dr. James Marion Sims invented procedures, instruments, and techniques that helped the spectrum of female diseases to become recognized as a separate field of medicine. His monument was erected in 1939 by the Alabama Medical Association. Capitol Curator Melanie Betz notes that a concerted effort to beautify the state house surroundings coincided with the end of the Depression. Unfortunately, the name of the sculptor could not be found. There is, however, much available information on this interesting doctor

of medicine. Born in Lancaster County, South Carolina, in 1813, Sims attended the Charleston Medical College and completed his training at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. He practiced briefly in his native state before moving to Mount Meigs, Alabama, in 1835. His autobiography, The Story of My Life (published in 1884; reprinted in 1968), reveals a man of paradox who was modest yet self-assured, sickly yet energetic, seemingly without specific goals yet capable of tremendous concentration. Before he ingeniously devised an instrument – based on a bent-handled spoon – with which a woman’s pelvic organs could be viewed, Sims was a general practitioner and surgeon who preferred to work on clubfeet and crossed eyes. According to a 1937 article in the Montgomery

Advertiser by then Alabama Archives Director Peter A. Brannon, Dr. Sims and his wife Theresa built a "log house of two stories and some pretensions" east of Line Creek on the old Federal Road. They moved to Montgomery in 1840, where the doctor’s first patients were a family of free Negroes. He soon had clients among the carriage trade as well. A 1930 address by Dr. Clarence Weil, on the occasion of the unveiling of a bronze tablet marking the Montgomery office and infirmary of Dr. Sims, tells of the honoree’s public thank you to the city in 1877, specifically to the "Crommelins and Pollards who gave me houses to live in until I was able to provide one for myself." His office and small eight bed infirmary were on the East side of Perry Street between

Washington and Dexter Avenue. Edmond Souchon, M. D., writing in 1896 in the American Surgical Association, expresses his elation on seeing "the forever famous little hospital in which he [Sims] experimented upon [slave women] Lucy, Betsey, Anarcha, and finally cured them; the hardware store where he bought the legendary pewter spoon from which developed the great and celebrated duck-bill speculum; the jeweler’s store where the first silver wire for sutures was drawn…" Brannon’s article pinpoints the hardware store as Hall, Moses and Roberts, located at what was later 104 Dexter Avenue; the jewelry store was owned by a Mr. Swan at 108 Dexter. Perhaps in response to criticism for what he himself candidly described as experiments on slave women, Dr. Sims noted in his

autobiography: "I kept these Negroes at my own expense…I succeeded in inspiring my patients with confidence they would be cured eventually; they would not have felt that confidence if I had not felt confident, too…I trained my patients to assist me in the operations." The point has been made that Lucy, Anarcha, and Betsey did indeed suffer from a chronic, embarrassing condition. Also to his credit, Sims informed their owners that the women could not be expected to work while they were in his care. And once he came up with the idea of using silver wire instead of silk sutures, all three were effectively cured in the summer of 1849. Sims moved to New York in 1852, stating the Alabama climate didn’t agree with him. He had caught malaria within a year of his arrival,