Betsey, Lucy, and Anarcha Days of Recognition
Every year on February 28 and March 1, the dates that bridge Black History Month and Women’s History Month, ACOG formally acknowledges Betsey, Lucy, and Anarcha, the three enslaved Black women whose exploitation led to foundational advances in the field of obstetrics and gynecology that benefit millions of patients today.
In the 1840s, Betsey, Lucy, and Anarcha, three enslaved Black women in Montgomery County, Alabama, were subjected to inhumane and painful experimentation at the hands of Dr. J. Marion Sims. While they are often forgotten, Sims is fondly remembered as the “father of modern gynecology” because of the surgical advancements he developed through the many abuses he perpetrated.
Betsey, Lucy, and Anarcha’s harrowing experiences have helped raise awareness about racism in medicine and the mistreatment of people of color in the medical system, which has often been overlooked throughout history. By recognizing Betsey, Lucy, and Anarcha each year, we uplift the contributions they were forced to make; learn from the history of racism in obstetrics and gynecology; and remember why it’s critical that we continue to work toward providing more inclusive, respectful, and culturally informed care.
About the Betsey, Lucy, and Anarcha Days of Recognition
In 2021, ACOG member Veronica Maria Pimentel, MD, MS, FACOG, proposed that ACOG dedicate February 28 and March 1 to recognizing Betsey, Lucy, Anarcha, and other enslaved women who were exploited in the name of medicine and are largely missing from medical textbooks and training. ACOG accepted that proposal and, in partnership with several leading health organizations, included it as one of the primary objectives outlined in the Collective Action Addressing Racism.
Over the years, ACOG has worked with scholars who have studied the history of the profession, and the organization will continue to do so to help inform ACOG’s work and clinical practice.
Everyone—obstetrician–gynecologists, patients, stakeholders, and the public— is invited to join us in recognizing Betsey, Lucy, and Anarcha and working toward equity and justice in medicine.
Days of Recognition 2022
ACOG is working to create an annual endowed lecture in honor of Betsey, Lucy, and Anarcha that will further our commitment to purposefully dismantling the systemic and institutional racism that pervades U.S. health care institutions.
Achieving Justice in Medicine: The Betsey, Lucy, and Anarcha Memorial Lecture
This year, ACOG held the inaugural Betsey, Lucy, and Anarcha Memorial Lecture.
ACOG members Gina Northington, MD, PhD; Allison Bryant, MD, MPH; and Ashanda Saint Jean, MD, participated in a live roundtable discussion moderated by ACOG Lead for Equity Transformation Jennifer Villavicencio, MD, MPP, to discuss how they employ justice in medicine; understand and incorporate the historical underpinnings of modern obstetrics and gynecology in their practice; and use their knowledge of the field’s history to move towards more inclusive, person-centered, respectful health care.
The recording of this event is available now. Earn 1 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™ for participating in this activity.
Respectful Care eModules
ACOG is pleased to offer free online courses dedicated to race and equity in obstetrics and gynecology, historical foundations of obstetrics and gynecology, and respectful care in obstetrics and gynecology. These courses will provide a breadth of knowledge that will help clinicians more effectively offer respectful care in obstetrics, gynecology, and overall patient health.
Activities from the Inaugural Days of Recognition
Learn More about ACOG’s Efforts
- Remembering Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsey: The Mothers of Modern Gynecology
- The ‘Father of Modern Gynecology’ Performed Shocking Experiments on Enslaved Women
- Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology
- Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present
- The Benson and Pamela Harer Seminar on History: Understanding the Genealogy of American Gynecology
- Reproductive Injustice: Racism, Pregnancy, and Premature Birth
- Reproducing racism
*This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number U7CMC33636 State Maternal Health Innovation Support and Implementation Program Cooperative Agreement. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government.