Shannon Withycombe

Position title: William Coleman Dissertation Fellow (2009-2010)

History of Science, UW-Madison

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All Was Going Wrong: Pregnancy Loss in Nineteenth-Century America

This project aims to explore the much-neglected field of the history of pregnancy loss. I will investigate both how physicians described the phenomenon and how they understood their own place in its prevention, treatment, and documentation. To complete the picture, I will also search through personal papers to attain women’s descriptions of their own pregnancy loss experiences or those of friends and family. My dissertation traces the evolving relationship between American women and their physicians over what could be both a personal tragedy and a scientific enterprise. This project will not only serve as a chronicle of an important arm of the ongoing medicalization of reproductive processes, it will also address the construction of death, the influence of biology on clinical practice in the early nineteenth century, and the creation of scientific specimens.

Shannon Withycombe is a graduate student in the History of Science Department at UW. Her areas of interest include the history of women’s health, sex and sexuality, nineteenth-century women’s history and the creation of medical knowledge. She has also spent much of her time at Wisconsin teaching in the History of Science, Medical History and Bioethics, and Gender and Women’s Studies departments. She has received the Maurice L. Richardson Fellowship in the History of Medicine, the William Coleman Dissertation Fellowship, the Countway Library Fellowship in the History of Medicine, and the Bain Scholar-in-Residence Fellowship at the Sophia Smith Archives. She is currently finishing her dissertation on the history of pregnancy loss and also spends much of her time searching for a job.