Unwell Women: Misdiagnosis and Myth in a Man-Made World

Dutton. Jun. 2021. 400p. ISBN 9780593182956. $27. MED
In her debut work, Cleghorn who holds a PhD in humanities and cultural studies, crafts an informative overview of medical practices, focusing in particular on medicine's disregard for women patients and for women as healers and physicians. Starting with the ancient Greeks, threading through the Victorian era and a post-World War II England and United States, and ending at the present day, Cleghorn recounts stories of harm and abuse brought upon women by the medical establishment. She doesn't shy away from describing the compounded pain brought to bear on Black women when white women fought for their own rights at Black women's expense. Some descriptions are almost too painful to read; however, the author honors these women and reminds readers that their lives were very much real, even as they were dehumanized by physicians. Especially notable are sections about the origins of gynecology and about 19th-century physicians' scant knowledge of ovaries and fallopian tubes. Cleghorn weaves in her own story towards the book's end; it mirrors the stories of the women throughout history who were considered unreliable narrators of their own health.
VERDICT An insightful account that is especially recommended for those interested in the history of medicine where it intersects with women's health, as well as readers interested in women's and gender studies.
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