He Operated on Black Slave Women Without Anesthesia. Remove His Statues

On NYC's Central Park's Fifth Avenue and 103rd Street, there is a statue of Dr. Marion Sims, the "Father of Gynecology." While Sims was responsible for curing a common ailment among women in the 19th century, he did so by operating on Black female slaves without anesthesia or consent.

Please sign this petition to ask New York City to remove Sims' statue from public and move it to a museum.


From 1845 to 1849, Dr. Sims experimented on slave women in order to develop a cure for Vesico-vaginalfistula (VVF), a tear from the bladder to the vagina that can occur during labor. Women with the condition are unable to control their bladder and constantly leak urine. Many poor immigrant women in the U.S. suffered from it in the 19th century. Women who suffered this condition were often socially outcast and often committed suicide.

Sims conducted surgery on 7 slave women who were brought to him by their masters and totally unable to give consent due to the lack of bodily autonomy and personal decisionmaking afforded to slaves at the time. Anesthesia had been developed in 1846, and was beginning to gain wider use. Sims may have been unaware of this area of medical advancement, and he did not use it.

Sims performed his first operation on a slave woman named Lucy, and he invited 12 local doctors to watch. Can you imagine the humiliation she must have endured, not to mention the pain? The operation was unsuccessful, and Lucy nearly died. It took her almost 3 months to recover.

Four years later, Sims successfully repaired VVF in Anarcha, a slave woman who had endured 13 operations without anesthesia. Apparently the surgeries were so painful, many of the white women who came to Sims for VVF treatment after the successful operation on Anarcha were able to endure a single operation due to the pain.

Sims may have treated a common ailment, but he did so at the expense of Black female bodies and Black women's autonomy. He failed to recognize them as autonomous beings, and yet he has enjoyed widespread fame and has many statues and hospitals named for him.

And it wasn't just "the way things were": even at the time of the experiments, Sims' reputation in his community was suffering because people did not approve of his use of human beings are experiment subjects.

Sims used the horrible institution of slavery to achieve his fame and did so at the expense of real people. Please sign this petition to ask New York City to remove Sims' statue from public and move it to a museum.
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