Mothers of Gynecology
This February, the Library Company was privileged to display a special piece of art, an original quilt, on loan from artist and Library Company Trustee Michelle D. Flamer. A self-taught needle and fiber artist, Michelle is a senior attorney for the city of Philadelphia whose work emphasizes workplace diversity and inclusion.
Michelle’s quilts have been featured in many books, including, Journey of Hope: Quilts Inspired by President Barack Obama (Voyageur Press), Quilts and Human Rights (University of Nebraska Press), and Conscience of the Human Spirit: The Life of Nelson Mandela (Indiana University Press). She has won several awards, and her quilt highlighting voter suppression, New Century Poll Tax, is in the permanent collection of Michigan State University.
Made with hand dyed fabrics, the quilt on display, Mothers of Gynecology, commemorates three African slaves, Anarcha, Betty, and Lucy, sent to Dr. J Marion Sims, the “father” of American gynecology. Because complications with early pregnancies had left the women unfit for plantation life, they became test subjects. The three women faced countless experimental surgeries, pain, and suffering in the name of scientific and medical advancement. Featuring two pewter antique spoons, a precursor to the modern speculum, this beautiful red and purple quilt helps us remember what these women endured so we may have safe and healthy gynecological practices today.