James Marion Sims, who developed tools and surgical techniques for women’s reproductive health, is regarded as the “father of modern gynecology”. Sims invented the vaginal speculum, a tool used for dilation and examination, and pioneered a surgical technique to repair vesicovaginal fistula.
Rickie Solinger defined Reproductive politics in her book “Pregnancy and Power” as using power to control women’s reproductive capacity in order to solve larger social problems facing the country. These social issues change over time and, consequently, expectations of female fertility reverse to accommodate.
During slavery, slave owners encouraged black women to bear more children. Slave owners engaged in slave-breeding, in which they would force women to breed more children, whom they would then enslave themselves or sell. Some states (mainly Virginia) produced slaves as their main domestic crop. One slave trader from Virginia boasted that his successful breeding policies enabled him to sell 6,000 enslaved children a year. To white breeders, slaves were a commodity and the closest thing they had to monetary value. Thomas Jefferson’s abolition of transatlantic slave trade served as protection for domestic slave markets, as slavebreeding became the only source for continuous supply of slaves. To encourage child-bearing, some population owners promised women slaves their freedom after they had produced fifteen children. As such, black women and their bodies were exploited and violated in the pursuit of more slaves, and this history of exploitation surely has lingering effects of trauma and stress on future generations. Below are accounts from ex-slaves regarding the practice of slave breeding, as collected by Stephen Ashley in “The Breeding of American Slaves”.