The Museum of Medicine and Health : Vaginal Speculum

The Museum of Medicine and Health

<p style='text-align: justify;'><b>Content warning: As a historical item, aspects of the development and past use of this object reflect the prejudices of the era, which are offensive, oppressive and may cause upset. This is not condoned by The University of Manchester, but we are committed to providing access to this material as evidence of the inequalities and attitudes of the time period.</b></p><p style='text-align: justify;'>This is a modern example of a vaginal speculum. It was developed as a medical instrument by American physician James Marion Sims (1813-1883) who was once viewed as the ‘father of modern gynaecology’. Sims developed the speculum by experimenting on enslaved black women without consent or anaesthesia, which makes its history deeply problematic. The instrument was designed to treat a woman with a vagino-vesicle fistula – a serious complication of prolonged labour during childbirth, when a hole develops between the vagina and bladder causing a constant leak of urine and chronic infection. The instrument and its wide adoption and use comes at the cost of pain and often almost death for the women who were experimented upon. The place of Sims, his image and use of his name, are challenged in health care and social settings today.</p>

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