The Trials of Madame Restell: Nineteenth-Century America’s Most Infamous Female Physician and the Campaign To Make Abortion a Crime

Dreamscape Media. Oct. 2023. 10:45 hrs. ISBN 9781666649581. $17.99. HIST
Syrett’s (women, gender, and sexuality studies, Univ. of Kansas; An Open Secret) latest traces the life of Ann Trow Summers Lohman (1812–78), a prominent 19th-century health care practitioner known as Madame Restell. Lohman provided a full range of medical services, helping women who were trying to become pregnant, as well as those who wanted to avoid or end a pregnancy. When Lohman first began her practice, gestational health care was overseen by midwives, and it was not considered a crime to terminate a pregnancy before quickening. But American politicians, doctors, and religious crusaders, concerned about population changes caused by immigration to the U.S. and hoping to regulate women’s autonomy, soon put legislative restrictions in place. Narrator Madeleine Maby relays Lohman’s biography, from her childhood in England, where her parents were overwhelmed by their large family, to her establishment of a successful business and the troubles that came soon thereafter. Maby brings an air of empathy and authority to her narration, honoring a courageous woman who helped countless others gain control over their reproductive health.
VERDICT A timely, well-researched account that provides historical insight into present-day debates about abortion and reproductive rights in the United States.
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