During the first half of the twentieth century, sterilization (tubal ligation and vasectomy) was a tool of eugenics. Individuals who endorsed crude notions of biological determinism sought to control the reproductive decisions of women they considered "unfit" by nature of race or class, and used surgery to do so. Incorporating first-person narratives, court cases, and official records, Rebecca M. Kluchin examines the evolution of forced sterilization of poor women, especially women of color, in the second half of the century and contrasts it with demands for contraceptive sterilization made by white women and men. She chronicles public acceptance during an era of reproductive and sexual freedom, and the subsequent replacement of the eugenics movement with "neo-eugenic" standards that continued to influence American medical practice, family planning, public policy, and popular sentiment.
Surgeon, scholar, best-selling author, Sherwin B. Nuland tells the strange story of Ignác Semmelweis with urgency and the insight gained from his own studies and clinical experience. Ignác Semmelweis is remembered for the now-commonplace notion that doctors must wash their hands before examining patients. In mid-nineteenth-century Vienna, however, this was a subversive idea. With deaths from childbed fever exploding, Semmelweis discovered that doctors themselves were spreading the disease. While his simple reforms worked immediately—childbed fever in Vienna all but disappeared—they brought down upon Semmelweis the wrath of the establishment, and led to his tragic end.