In the spring of 1889, a burgeoning Brooklyn newspaper, the Daily Eagle, printed a series of articles that detailed a history of midnight hearses and botched operations performed by a scalpel-eager female surgeon named Dr. Mary Dixon Jones. The ensuing avalanche of public outrage gave rise to two trials - one for manslaughter and one for libel - that became a late nineteenth-century sensation. Vividly recreating both trials, Regina Morantz-Sanchez provides a marvelous historical whodunit, inviting readers to sift through the evidence and evaluate the witnesses. Like many legal extravaganzas of our own time, the Mary Dixon Jones trials highlighted broader social issues in America, issues that were catalyzed by the transformation of cities - like Brooklyn - from ordered communities dominated by nineteenth-century bourgeois elites to sprawling, multi-ethnic urban landscapes. Moreover, the trials unmasked apprehension about not only the medical and social implications of radical gynecological surgery, but also the rapidly changing role of women in society. The courtroom provided a perfect forum for airing public doubts concerning the reputation of one unruly woman doctor whose life-threatening procedures offered an alternative to the chronic, debilitating pain of nineteenth-century women.
...explores the Dixon-Jones trial that took place in nineteenth century Brooklyn, and the evolving role of women in gynecological health care.