American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists (AAGL) | American Board of Obstetrics & Gynecology (ABOG) | American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) | American College of Osteopathic Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOOG) | American Gynecological and Obstetrical Society (AGOS) | American Medical Women's Association (AMWA) | American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (ASCCP) | American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) | American Urogynecologic Society (AUGS) | Association of Professors of Gynecology and Obstetrics (APGO) | Council of University Chairs of Obstetrics and Gynecology (CUCOG) | Council on Resident Education in Obstetrics and Gynecology (CREOG) | Infectious Diseases Society for Obstetrics and Gynecology (IDSOG) | North American Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology (NASPAG) | Society for Academic Specialists in General Obstetrics and Gynecology (SASGOG) | Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) | Society for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility (SREI) | Society for Reproductive Investigation (SRI) | Society of Family Planning (SFP) | Society of Gynecologic Oncology (SGO) | Society of Gynecologic Surgeons (SGS) | Society of OB/GYN Hospitalists (SOGH)
Our organizations, which comprise leading professional organizations in health care, officially designate February 28 and March 1—the dates that bridge Black History and Women’s History months—for the formal acknowledgement of 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.
Betsey, Lucy, and Anarcha, and other unnamed enslaved women, were experimented on by Dr. James Marion Sims in development of surgical techniques in the mid-1800s. Their documented experiences have helped raise awareness about racism in medicine and the abuses endured by people of color that have often been overlooked in medical history.
This year’s commemoration marks the inaugural formal reflection on the injustices—deeply rooted in racism and oppression—carried out against these women and others throughout history. As leading organizations comprised of medical care professionals, we have made an actionable commitment to accountability and doing the purposeful work of dismantling systemic and institutional racism that is pervasive in U.S. healthcare institutions and led to continued disparate and negative health outcomes for Black, indigenous, people of color and other marginalized persons.
This effort starts with the seven actions outlined in the joint statement Collective Action Addressing Racism. One of the primary objectives of this collective action is to assist our organizations’ members in reflecting, learning, and acting on ways they can individually work to change the culture of medicine.
This inaugural year, on Feb. 22, Dr. Veronica Pimentel, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist whose activism was the impetus for the commemoration days, hosted a live event with Award-Winning Historian Dr. Deirdre Cooper Owens, discussing the history and accounts of Betsey, Lucy and Anarcha. You can access the recording of that event here.
Dr. Pimentel has also provided a video reflecting on the importance of recognizing Betsey, Lucy and Anarcha and the impact this recognition and reflection can have on the medical community as a whole.
Please join us in this year’s commemoration by engaging with these resources and sharing them with members and colleagues via social media and other communications on Feb. 28 and March 1. Also, please provide your feedback on this effort in this member-only survey.
Dr. Veronica Pimentel: The Importance of Recognizing Betsey, Lucy, and Anarcha
- 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