Introducing: Sane or Insane? Tracking the Insanity Defense through History

At the heart of the case of Josephine McCarty is an inescapable contradiction: in January 1872 Mrs. McCarty shot and killed a man in broad daylight, on a streetcar full of passengers, and by June she was acquitted, free once again to ride the streetcar like any other Utican, to travel at will, and to go about her business as though nothing happened.

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Frogs in the stomach: The People’s Medical Lighthouse, popular medicine, and elusive reading

I spent my morning in the tiny reading room of the History of Medicine division of the Edward G. Miner Library at the University of Rochester, reading through several editions of an apparently very popular work of popular medicine called The People’s Medical Lighthouse. My interest in the Lighthouse is somewhat tangential: in fall of 1855, Josephine McCarty, an abandoned wife and bereft mother recovering from personal tragedy and about to enroll in medical school as a preface to a long career as an abortionist, made some cash selling copies of Dr. Harmon K. Root’s “Series of Popular and Scientific Essays” on a wide (and I do mean wide) variety of medical topics.

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