The Determined Siblings Who Became America’s First Women Doctors

In 1849, when Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman doctor in America, the medical profession was neither well established nor well respected nor well paid. Germ theory was more than a decade away, and in hospitals for the poor, surgeons in blood-caked aprons went from handling corpses to delivering babies without washing their hands. In wealthy homes, physicians coasted on charisma and connections as much as skill. At all levels of society, doctors had little more to rely on than “purgatives, laudanum and lancets.” What kind of woman would fight to join their ranks?

How reading about self-help can change your life | The

Can a book make you a better person? The publishing industry certainly seems to think so. Physical and virtual bookshop shelves groan with guides to self-improvement and self-care, which promise to show readers how to be healthier, happier, richer, tidier, smarter, more successful and less racist. But even as the genre metastasizes, it remains stubbornly invisible to the literary establishment. As far as critics, academics and self-styled serious readers are concerned, self-help is everywhere and nowhere.

The Roaring Writers

The story of rootless young Americans abroad in the 1920s long ago calcified into literary myth, but the entwined story of their engagement in journalism and international politics still offers plenty of surprises. In her fascinating new book, historian Nancy F. Cott follows four young college graduates who booked passage in the early 1920s to distant shores, carrying with them literary ambitions that were more or less vague, and wound up in the vanguard of interwar journalism.

Unearthing London’s history from a muddy riverbank

A mudlark — a person who scavenges for treasure in the muck and rubbish of a riverbank — sounds like a character from a Shakespearean comedy, flitting between the extremes of filth and magic. In her quirky memoir of modern mudlarking, Lara Maik­lem travels from west to east along the Thames, from Teddington to Tilbury, reflecting on London’s long and layered history as revealed in the detritus thrown up by the water.

Wheel of Fortune

Dan Carlin, host of the popular podcast Hardcore History, stresses at the outset of his latest book that he is not a historian but rather “a student of history”: an amateur status that grants him the freedom “to roam intellectual spaces” that are off-limits to academics cowed by the rigors of peer review. A different student of history might wonder if restricting himself to a smaller field of inquiry could yield more graspable and thus more profound answers, but not Carlin, who roams from ancient Assyria to nuclear-powered America with the wowed air of a college freshman who’s just discovered cultural relativism.

Team Scott vs Team Zelda (PDF)

“People always believe the best story” wrote Zelda Fitzgerald in her novel Save Me the Waltz in 1932. For a long time, that story of the Fitzgeralds starred a brilliant, self-destructive golden boy tethered to a golden girl, whose glamour eventually dulled into madness. Then in 1970, Nancy Milford’s Zelda: A biography twisted the kaleidoscope and a new story tumbled into view, one in which a brilliant woman was overshadowed, plundered and abandoned by her husband.

Jack the Ripper’s victims are famous in death, but what were their lives like?

Jack the Ripper, the serial killer who terrorized London’s East End in the late 19th century, may be the catalyst for historian Hallie Rubenhold’s fascinating new book, but he is in no way its subject. Readers who wish to linger over the bloody details of the murders or speculate as to the killer’s still-unknown identity will have to look elsewhere, in the rich seam of Ripper lore. This is a story of life, not death.
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