Women in Medicine in Nineteenth-Century American Literature

From Poisoners to Doctors, Harriet Beecher Stowe to Theda Bara

  • Sara L. Crosby

About this book


This book investigates how popular American literature and film transformed the poisonous woman from a misogynist figure used to exclude women and minorities from political power into a feminist hero used to justify the expansion of their public roles. Sara Crosby locates the origins of this metamorphosis in Uncle Tom’s Cabin where Harriet Beecher Stowe applied an alternative medical discourse to revise the poisonous Cassy into a doctor. The newly “medicalized” poisoner then served as a focal point for two competing narratives that envisioned the American nation as a multi-racial, egalitarian democracy or as a white and male supremacist ethno-state. Crosby tracks this battle from the heroic healers created by Stowe, Mary Webb, Oscar Micheaux, and Louisia May Alcott to the even more monstrous poisoners or “vampires” imagined by E. D. E. N. Southworth, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Theda Bara, Thomas Dixon, Jr., and D. W. Griffith. 


American women writers nineteenth century women writers literature and science literature and medicine Harriet Beecher Stowe Uncle Tom's Cabin women doctors women healers poisonous women antebellum American writing female archetypes in literature

Authors and affiliations

  • Sara L. Crosby
    • 1
  1. 1.The Ohio State University at MarionMarion, OHUSA

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