2023 Boyarsky Lecture

Examining Slavery, the Archives of the Womb & the Birth of American Modern Gynecology

Deirdre Cooper Owens image Deirdre Cooper Owens, PhD

Associate Professor of History & Africana Studies
University of Connecticut

Wednesday, September 20, 5:30pm
Love Auditorium, Levine Science Research Center
Duke University

Reception to follow  I  Open to the public
Free parking in Research Drive Garage

In her talk, historian Deirdre Cooper Owens reveals the United States' genealogical origins regarding not only modern gynecology but also the history of reproductive medicine. She explains how the institution of U.S. slavery was directly linked to the creation of reproductive medicine in this nation. Dr. Cooper Owens provides context for how and why physicians denied black women their full humanity, yet valued them as “medical superbodies” highly suited for experimentation. Engaging with 19th-century ideas about so-called racial difference, Dr. Cooper Owens sheds light on the contemporary legacy of medical racism and what we should do to create birthing and medical equity.

A popular public speaker and writer, Dr. Cooper Owens has published both scholarly and popular pieces on issues that concern African American historical experiences ranging from slavery to contemporary reproductive justice.  She is an Organization of American Historians’ (OAH) Distinguished Lecturer and a past American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Fellow. Her highly acclaimed first book is Medical Bondage: Race, Gender and the Origins of American Gynecology.  She is currently working on a biography of Harriet Tubman that examines the revolutionary through the lens of disability, and a monograph about the history of race, medical discovery, and the C-section.

The Boyarsky Lectureship, created through a gift from Drs. Saul and Rose Boyarsky, brings distinguished lecturers to Duke University
who can inspire achievement in social justice and public health through science.