Welcome MARF 2023: Jessica Sealey

The Museum of Health Care is pleased to announce that Jessica Sealey is this year’s recipient of the Margaret Angus Research Fellowship.

Jessica Sealey is a PhD candidate in Cultural Studies at Queen’s University. Jessica holds a Masters in the History of Art from the University of Western Ontario and has previously worked in the visual arts, tourism and heritage sectors as a curator and educator. Her doctoral research focuses on the Contagious Diseases Acts of Britain (1864-1886) and explores narratives of sexual immorality, public health, performance, and surveillance. Her research interests include the history of gender, sexuality, and medicine, as well as visual culture and museum studies.

This project considers the history of the speculum with a focus on its use and associated controversies both inside and outside the medical community. In the nineteenth century, the speculum became a tool of medical and police surveillance through the introduction of the Contagious Diseases Acts in Britain (1864-1886). These acts, which allowed for the compulsory medical examination of women who were accused of prostitution, inspired a feminist-driven repeal movement particularly targeting the use of the speculum. In their activism, the repealers were participating in a larger medico-moral debate around the efficacy and ethics of this tool in the burgeoning field of gynaecology. The introduction of the speculum in Britain inspired questions related to bodily autonomy, medical and sexual consent, and women’s health care that would continue to polarize medical professionals, patients, and activists to this day. This project will bring together the material items of the gynaecological exam held within the Museum of Health Care’s collection and the historical writing of physicians and activists to inspire further conversations around the bodily experience of the gynaecological exam. 

Keep an eye on our blog page for posts from Jessica, and stayed tuned for a lecture at the end of her project in the fall.

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