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.
Betsey, Lucy, and Anarcha Annual Memorial Lecture
On March 1, 2023, ACOG held the second annual Betsey, Lucy, and Anarcha Memorial Lecture, Supporting Colleagues of Color: Practical Tips for Combating Racism and Burnout.
Featured Speakers: Jessica Buck DiSilvestro, MD, Cynthia Izuno Macri, MD, FACOG, Jaleen Sims, MD, MPH, FACOG, Mark B. Woodland, MS, MD, FACOG
Days of Recognition 2023
In 1991, Deborah M. Smith, MD, MPH, FACOG, gave a presentation at the ACOG Annual Clinical Meeting based on her research project, titled “Afro-American Presence in Obstetrics & Gynecology,” which she undertook as an ACOG History of Medicine fellow.
Dr. Smith’s presentation centered Betsey, Lucy, and Anarcha, and over 30 years later, her presentation is still relevant—and its message is still poignant. For the 2023 Betsey, Lucy, and Anarcha Days of Recognition, ACOG is sharing parts of Dr. Smith’s 1991 presentation.
In Plain Sight Digital Guidebook
In an effort to bridge this gap in medical knowledge and promote racial equity in obstetric and gynecologic care, medical students in Districts IV and VII have developed a guidebook titled, “In Plain Sight: Normalizing Diverse Clinical Presentations in Obstetrics and Gynecology.”
The guidebook includes clinical photographs of commonly seen pathologies in obstetrics and gynecology presented on people of color who are often not represented. The creators hope that this resource, which they dedicated to Betsey, Lucy, and Anarcha, will encourage discussions and provide valuable information to medical educators and trainees.
Please email [email protected] with inquiries.
Activities from the Inaugural Days of Recognition
Statement on Collective Action Addressing Racism: Acknowledging Betsey, Lucy, and Anarcha
The Importance of Recognizing Betsey, Lucy, and Anarcha
History and Accounts of Betsey, Lucy, and Anarcha with Veronica Maria Pimentel MD FACOG and Deirdre Cooper Owens PhD
Achieving Justice in Medicine: The Betsey, Lucy, and Anarcha Memorial Lecture
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.