Father of Gynecology's Statue Comes Down

J. Marion Sims experimented on slaves, and his likeness will no longer be in Central Park
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 19, 2018 4:37 PM CDT
Father of Gynecology's Statue Comes Down
In this file photo, a statue of Dr. J. Marion Sims is shown as it stands overlooking Fifth Avenue in New York's Central Park. The statue is now down.   (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

Another controversial 19th-century statue has been taken down in a big city, but this time the controversy doesn't involve the Confederacy. Instead, the statue of Dr. J. Marion Sims— regarded as the father of modern gynecology—came down in New York's Central Park because much of his breakthrough work derived from experimentation on slaves, reports the Daily News. Sims operated on 11 slave women in Alabama over the course of three years, over and over, without anesthesia, recounts the Atlantic. He is credited, among other things, with perfecting a procedure to correct a painful condition known as vescovaginal fistula that often proved fatal in the 1800s.

Sims would go on to establish the first women's hospital in the US, and while he maintained that his slave patients were volunteers, the general consensus today is that enslaved women could not possibly have given their full consent. New York's Public Design Commission voted Monday that the statue could come down, and Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered its removal the very next day. However, Sims' critics did not win a complete victory: Instead of being destroyed or warehoused, the statue will instead be moved to Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery, where Sims is buried. Vox notes that the move can be seen in the context of other health experiments involving African-Americans, including the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study and the use of Henrietta Lacks' cells in cancer research. (More statue stories.)

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