Seen here are many of the participants of the Ontario Women’s History Network (OWHN) conference held at Museum London on the theme of women and health – our first time in London, Ontario! At the centre is incoming Chair Sarah Hogenbirk, and second and third left of her, in the front row, are two of OWHN’s founding members, Pat Staton and Paula Bourne. Two more founding members, Gail Cuthbert Brandt and Jane Errington were in attendance, Gail standing third to the left of Sarah while Jane is missing from the photograph.
Among the highlights of the meeting was a Friday evening reception and a full day of sessions dealing with women’s role in health care. One session explored their work in establishing and administering colonial era health care institutions in Kingston, the art of domestic medicine, and approaches to preventing venereal disease. In another session, former London resident and legal historian Dr. Constance Backhouse gave a retrospective on Dr. Emily Stowe who stood trial for performing an abortion; and activist and author Jane Doe gave a thought-provoking account of the medicalization of sexual assault through the rape kit, ostensibly used to collect evidence. Drew Belsky reported on women as medical illustrators and Dr. Marla Dobson, Curator of the Museum of Health Care in Kingston, explored interpretations of obstetrical wax models. During OWHN’s annual general meeting, Rose Fine-Meyer (far left in photo) became a lifetime member of OWHN in recognition of her many years of dedication to the organization.
In keeping with OWHN’s longstanding dedication to public as well as academic history, the conference was capped off with a wonderful tour of nearby Eldon House, a well-preserved home to four generations of the Harris family. Thanks to the staff there, delegates were treated to a customized tour of the house, with health care specifically outlined and they heard about treatments for childhood croup, mental illness, death and funeral customs, and even a ghost story.
Thanks to Amber Lloydlangston and Katherine McKenna for organizing such a fine conference and for our sponsors: Nancy’s Very Own Foundation; Department of History, Hannah Chair in the History of Medicine, and Department of Women’s Studies and Feminist Research, all of the University of Western Ontario; Museum London and Eldon House.