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Mon, 01.25.1813

J. Marion Sims, Gynecologist born

*J. Marion Sims was born on this date in 1813.  He was a white-American doctor, often called the Father of gynecology. 

From Lancaster, SC, James Marion Sims was one of two sons of John Jarrett "Jack” Sims, who was a county sheriff, and Mahala Mackey Sims.  His brother’s name was John Jarrett Sims Jr.  J. Marion Sims graduated from Franklin Academy High School and, in 1832, graduated from the University of South Carolina.  He also attended Charleston Medical School and graduated from Thomas Jefferson University Medical School: MD in 1836. 

He married Eliza Theresa Jones, and the family had two sons and four daughters.  A pioneer in vaginal surgery, Dr. Sims developed a surgical treatment for vesicovaginal fistulas (a complication of childbirth in which internal damages allow abnormal connections to develop between a woman's bladder and vagina, leading to incontinence and great discomfort).

Between 1845 and 1849, Sims rented Black slave women and used them as guinea pigs, refining his technique by performing dozens of un-anesthetized surgeries on their sexual organs.   He abused these women he considered subhuman before using his technique on white women. The painful procedure was a striking success, and in medically advanced societies, surgical repair to vesicovaginal fistulas is now considered minor surgery. 

Sims also conducted early research into lockjaw in infants and invented the Sims speculum, a gynecological tool used to hold back the perineum, exposing it to view the upper areas of the vagina. The morals of his era allowed physicians to examine the genitalia of white females only by hand, never by direct observation. Still, such modesty was not an issue when examining Black slaves. After bending a pewter spoon into a U-shape to make the first Sims speculum and examining the interior of a slave woman, he wrote in his journal, "I saw everything, as no man had ever seen before."  

He later opened a hospital for women's diseases in New York and assumed the title of Surgeon in Chief, but quit when the hospital's board would not allow large crowds to observe his surgeries. He was elected President of the American Medical Association in 1876 and hailed internationally as the father of gynecology, which gained stature as a separate medical specialty largely through reports of Dr. Sims' work. Because of his misuse of Black women, a statue in his honor in New York's Central Park was taken down in 2018.   J. Marion Sims died on November 13, 1883, in New York City of Heart Failure and is buried at Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY. 

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