Academic journal article Nursing History Review

Women, Health, and Nation

Academic journal article Nursing History Review

Women, Health, and Nation

Article excerpt

Women, Health, and Nation Edited by Georgina Feldberg, Molly Ladd-Taylor, Alison Li, and Kathryn McPherson (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queens University Press, 2003) (446 pages; $75.00 cloth; $22.95 paper)

Women, Health, and Nation is a collection of twenty essays and documents, the outcome of a conference supported by the Burrows-Wellcome Fund that was designed to explore the historical dimensions of how national Healthcare differences have shaped women's lives. The conference organizers and editors of this book, all professors at Canada's York University, present this volume as an extension of historical analysis into the understudied post-1945 era, when medicalization, largely complete in both the United States and Canada, developed in the widely diverging Canadian and American Healthcare systems. The purpose of the book is to explore Canadian and American women's medical care and health activism "to show how, and to what extent, national citizenship has helped to shape women's health" (p. 3).

The book is organized around five themes in the postwar history of women and health. The first theme is the power of the nation-state, including chapters on governmental regulation of the flow of pharmaceuticals, abortion services, standards of medical practice in women's care, and the burgeoning welfare state of the postwar era.

The second theme, one that has received much critical attention from feminist scholars since the 1970s, is the authority of Western biomedicine. Chapters detailing the sterilization of Mexican immigrant women, women's mental and physical health, the emergence of genetic counseling, and alcohol addiction reveal the complexities of a medical system in which some women felt empowered, while others felt victimized.

The third theme addresses the diversity of women's experiences, including job discrimination and exploitation of non white patients as test subjects. Chapters in this section reveal the differences and similarities between Canadian and U.S. racial politics, as well as ways in which differences in mental ability, sexuality, religious practices, region, and class shaped women's experience of biomedicine. A fourth theme explores women's agency, particularly the active roles women played in establishing public health services for women beginning in the first half of the twentieth century. In a variety of ways, women continued to play key roles in the expansion of health care delivery in the postwar period. …

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