In this month’s Industry News, women authors are outperforming the men at long last, a Seven Sisters College appoints its first Black women President, a profile of drag as an expanding cultural force, a major survey of what Covid-19 taught librarians, and Women’s History Month at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.


Women Authors in the Lead

In the 1960s women were the authors of just 18% of books published. By 2020, a new study has shown, that figure is more than 50%, for the first time in history. And it seems that the increasing number of female-authored books is good for the bottom line.

Source: Quartz 


First Black Woman President for Mount Holyoke

Danielle Ren Holley is the first Black woman in the 186-year history of Mount Holyoke College to serve as permanent president, and the fourth Black woman in history to lead one of the original Seven Sisters Colleges.

Source: The Dig 


A Profile of Drag

Drag has expanded into a cultural force for the public, appreciated by millions of individuals in mainstream audiences worldwide.

Source: Nexus Radio


Women’s History at the Smithsonian

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture will honor prominent Black women in the arts and entertainment industry throughout March in recognition of Women’s History Month.

Source: The Washington Informer 


What Covid-19 Taught Librarians

Three years after the shutdown of March 2020, American Libraries asked public, academic, school, and special librarians how the pandemic changed their work, what innovations and programs (curbside service, parking lot wi-fi, disinfecting collections, virtual programs, bookmobiles) are here to stay, and what they learned about their workplaces and users.

Source: American Libraries 


by Megan Smith

In honor of Black and Women’s History Month, OTH is highlighting Ali Duncan and Urban Sanctuary Wellness Studio to illustrate the creative genius and legacy of Black women across the U.S.

Urban Sanctuary is a Black women-owned and led wellness studio in the historically Black neighborhood of Five Points in Denver, Colorado that used to be known as the ‘Harlem of the West.’ The studio is housed in a 120-year building and in 1915, the sons of the great abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, Louis, and Fredrick Douglass Jr., ran the Douglass Undertaking Company through the building. Ali Duncan, the founder, and visionary behind Urban Sanctuary, remains rooted in the building’s legacy through centering the QTBIPOC community at the studio by offering accessible pricing for classes and workshops, providing Anti-Racism education, and cultivating a safe space for the community to connect and heal. 

Ali created a sanctuary full of possibilities. She allows creative freedom with the intention for all instructors, practitioners, creatives, musicians, and all beings that seek to utilize the studio for their healing, art, or educational offerings. The foundation of Urban Sanctuary is rooted in diversity and all walks of life are welcome to come as they are! The next time you are in Denver, Colorado, stop by the studio for yoga, meditation, dance, or aerial class! 

Studio Schedule:

Articles on Ali Duncan the founder and visionary behind Urban Sanctuary. 


PBS Interview: 

OTH Talks to Helen Shenton, College Librarian at Trinity College Dublin

The Old Library at Trinity College Dublin is famous around the world as the home of the Book of Kells. It also houses 40 sculpture-busts of scholars and other luminaries like William Shakespeare. When it was decided to add sculptures of women scholars, the women now represented were selected from nominations by students, staff, and alumni.  

The four women now represented in the Long Room are scientist Rosalind Franklin, folklorist, dramatist and Abbey Theatre founder Augusta Gregory, women’s rights advocate Mary Wollstonecraft and mathematician Ada Lovelace. The artists commissioned were Vera Klute, Guy Reid, Rowan Gillespie and Maudie Brady. The new sculptures are the first to be commissioned for the Long Room in the Old Library in more than a century. The ceremony of unveiling the new Trinity College sculptures took place on February 1, 2023, St. Brigid’s Day, a new public holiday. The first Irish public holiday named after a woman, St. Brigid’s Day acknowledges the unique role that women have played in Irish history, culture and society.  

Oh, the Humanities! recently talked to Helen Shenton, Librarian and College Archivist at Trinity College Dublin, about the process of selecting the women scholars and the artists who created their sculpture busts. This interview has been slightly edited for clarity and length.

Clare Doyle (OTH): Tell me a little bit about the process of shortlisting the artists. Was it delayed by COVID and the lockdowns? 

Helen Shenton (Trinity College Dublin):  We shortlisted nine artists and we invited them to choose two of the women scholars and to create maquettes. We paid for the maquettes, which I think during COVD was particularly good, because, as you know, everyone was so concerned about the welfare of artists. So, no, it was a long process, but COVID didn’t really slow us down. 

Clare: That’s great. And the nominations of the women scholars—that was a process where you reached out to staff and students and a broader community than just a small select committee? 

Helen: We invited all nominations—we had hundreds of nominations—from anyone. And it wasn’t along the lines of who got the most votes or anything, We then had very robust discussions as to who should be chosen, and our one criteria is that we wanted two women from the arts and humanities, and two from the STEMs.

Clare: That’s great, yes—that struck me that you had a nice balance between women in their different fields. Was there any pushback from people who said, for instance, “Oh, these choices were great, but there should have been three out of the four women who were Irish”, or anything like that?

Helen: No, the criteria were really very broad. We didn’t say anything about nationality—it was women scholars who were deceased. That was all it was. And since we announced them, we haven’t had any pushback as such. People have said, “Oh, I championed so-and-so,” but no, there hasn’t been any pushback as to who we chose. Lady Gregory is the most connected with Ireland, but that wasn’t part of our criteria. We wanted international scholars. 

Clare. That’s very interesting, and rather appropriate too, perhaps, for our post-COVID world. 

Helen: And if you look at who all the male scholars [in the Library] are, everyone from Cicero to Swift to Hamilton, that’s very broad. We actively wanted to be broad. 

Clare. Yes, interesting point, nobody ever said, “Oh, these men aren’t all Irish!” So, was there anyone that surprised you, from the nominations? “Oh, I’ve never heard of that woman before?”

Helen: Throughout the whole process, we all learned so much. There were names that I wasn’t particularly familiar with, and we discussed them, so I learned about those women. I’ve learned a huge amount about who these women were. We had an event the following day, the day after St. Brigid’s Day, a conversation between the four artists, and I had four Trinity scholars champion each of the women. Oh my Lord—they were so insightful—it was riveting. That will be online soon, we’re just editing the film of it. Again, everyone in the room learned something about the individual scholars. And it was fascinating coming at it from the point of view of our academics, who had been inspired personally and professionally, in their fields. But then the artists–I moderated it, and I was expecting them to talk about their response in terms of materials and technique, but they’d researched [the scholars] so much that they had become experts as well, and knew about times in their lives and how that reflected incidents in the artists’ own lives. The whole thing has just been a journey of learning and discovery.

Clare: Yes, I noticed when reading the article on your website that gave more details about each sculpture that each artist was tailoring their technique to the career and the personality of the woman. It was really interesting to get that insight into the techniques of sculptors, which you don’t always get. 

Helen: Yes, and we’ve taken films of the artists in their studios, The artists were two women, two men—two Irish, two Continental European. We captured their creative process, which was really important, and they’ve talked about their choice of materials. All the previous sculptures were marble, some of them were Carrera marble, Two of the sculptors did choose marble, and one is lime wood, beautifully carved lime wood from the upper reaches of the Alps. And Rosalind Franklin’s is composed of different materials; there’s Parian, a type of porcelain, and there’s Jesmonite for her jacket, which is very textured, and then there’s Swarovski crystals for the necklace, and that’s a reference to the X-Ray crystallography that she used in her research that led to DNA. That actually contributed to her death, because she had been exposed to hundreds of hours of X-Ray crystallography, and it struck me, actually, that three out of the four women all died at 37 or 38.

Clare: That’s pretty startling, that three of the four were so young. It’s a great initiative. A little history–Am I correct in thinking that women as students were admitted into Trinity College at the beginning of the 20th century? 

Helen: 1904, and that followed about 12 years of campaigning and petitions and so on, but it was 1904. 

Clare: So a little over a hundred years. I haven’t tracked down a copy yet, but there is a book that focuses on the history of women in Trinity College, “Troublemakers” or something like that [The book is A Danger to the Men? A History of Women in Trinity College Dublin, 1904-2004, by Susan M. Parkes, Lilliput Press, 2004].  

So it sounds as if a lot of work went into the campaign. Are there plans to add any more sculptures?  The article mentioned bringing more diversity to the public spaces of Trinity College. Are there plans in general or specifically for the library?

Helen: I’ll address the library aspect of that if I may. It took quite a while and a lot of people and resources to pull off, and we wanted in particular—as you know, the Long Room is closing at the end of this year for major conservation. So I felt it was very important to get [the sculptures of the women] in beforehand. And with [the new public holiday] St Brigid’s Day, that became the obvious day to do the launch. So they’ll be in [the Library] for almost a year. Then our focus will be very much on this major, once-in-a-century conservation. I obviously aspire to getting more in there, but we’ll have to see how we go about doing that. But there’s definitely overall a desire to have more diversity, more representation of diversity in general across the campus. You probably know about the fabulous portrait of Mary Robinson [Chancellor from 1998-2019} that’s in the Dining Hall. That’s similar to the sculptures in some ways in that you don’t notice [the preponderance of male portraits] necessarily when you walk into these spaces, it’s not glaring, but when you get your eye in, you see this major difference. So that’s the direction we’re traveling in.

Clare: That’s great, thank you so much. I think our subscribers are going to find this very interesting, especially in the context of Women’s History Month but also with St. Patrick’s Day coming up.


“I have chosen to no longer be apologetic for my femaleness and my femininity. And I want to be respected in all of my femaleness because I deserve to be.” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists, HarperCollins (2014)

This issue of OTH Bookshelf focuses on women’s studies and women’s history. The list of nearly 300 open access academic titles includes the book’s author or editor names, title and title remainder, year of publication, publisher, and open access format (PDF, EPUB, MOBI, etc.) Subject headings in the list are taken from WorldCat records or Library of Congress records, if available: if not, original cataloging of subject headings is provided in WorldCat format, for consistency. The DOI (Digital Object Identifier) of the book is given if it is available on the publisher’s website; if not, the URL is provided. The ISBNs listed are for the online version of the book if available, and if more than one online ISBN is available the ISBN for the PDF version has been preferred; if there is not an online or e-book ISBN, the ISBN featured on the publisher’s website is included. The book’s license type (Creative Commons, etc.), terms of use or copyright restrictions are included if these have been provided by the publisher. 

If our readers are aware of any title or publishers that are not included, please feel free to submit them for consideration. (To be included in OTH Bookshelf, a book must be available to read online and/or download for free and must have been assigned an ISBN. And we welcome your suggestions for topics that might be covered in a future issue of OTH Bookshelf.

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by Sarah L. Berry, PhD

In April 2021, the CDC officially declared racism a public health threat. What does this mean, how did we get to this point, and how do the humanities offer ways to address this problem?

Racism is not part of US history; rather, it is US history. The 1619 project shows that the economic, political, legal, and social structures of the US were founded upon race-based slavery and colonialism. Inequity melded into national structure has a downstream effect on health for all citizens, but impacts BIPOC people disproportionately. 

According to the CDC’s statement on Racism and Health, centuries of race-based policies and practices “affecting where one lives, learns, works, worships and plays” created inequities in access to housing, education, wealth, and employment. “These conditions—often referred to as social determinants of health—are key drivers of health inequities within communities of color, placing those within these populations at greater risk for poor health outcomes.” Health inequities affect every dimension of daily life, including explicit and implicit bias in healthcare settings; access to care, physically, socially, and linguistically; trust in the medical profession; the health effects of internalized racism; exposure to race-based violence; somatic and behavioral responses to chronic experiences of racism and discrimination; and intergenerational, inheritable health effects of historical and personally-experienced racism.

Understanding the complex relations between race and health through a structural inequity framework highlights race as a social construction that has embodied and experienced consequences rather than as a biochemical (genetic) characteristic inherent to individuals or groups. We are still contending with inequities and harms resulting from the historical construction of race as a “natural,” medicalized category that explains health, illness, and care disparities. 

Yet precisely because race is a social concept with consequences lived by individual people who are part of communities, the humanities offer a way to address race as a public health threat with deep historical roots, to gather perspectives from people living in diverse communities, to identify community assets, and to imagine and build an equitable future for all. Health humanities offers us materials and methods for thinking critically about health and race, contextualizing data and patterns, learning from multiple perspectives, and productively dialoguing. 

First, a note on dialogue about challenging subjects like racism: it’s important to recognize that everyone brings different life experiences with them, and that these experiences as well as peoples’ identities will affect how they are able to receive and how they perceive the content. Respect for different identities or ways of being in the world is paramount. Equally important are promotion of self-care and holding space for all individuals in group settings. A guide to nonviolent communication and discussion practices is here.

Here are three starting points for dialogue and collective action for communities and organizations working to address inequity from the ground up. The text below and linked material contain content about racism and racialized experiences that may distress some readers. 

I. Into the Past: Inventing Racialized Bodies

Today’s federal categories of race, which medicine and population health research adopt, descend from Enlightenment taxonomies and colonial politics. In Who’s Black and Why, scholars Henry Louis Gates, Jr.  and Andrew S. Curran republish essays from 1739 that pinpoint imperial definitions of blackness in scientific terms. Such constructions served the interests of a global chattel slavery industry and profitable cash crops produced by enslaved labor. Poor health and illness caused by the conditions of enslavement were attributed to individuals and groups by means of biased measurement that was repeated and seemed to serve as empirical evidence. What is the enduring effect of this racist bias in health science? Consider the use of scientific measurements of blood oxygenation in enslaved people in Samuel Cartwright’s medical article (1851) and the development of an enduring medical technology, the spirometer, which continues to be calibrated differently according to race, according to scholar Lundy Braun in Breathing Race into the Machine (2021). This has serious therapeutic consequences.

Critical thinking about historical patterns also enables us to ask counterpoint questions. Were there any alternative or even antiracist ideas about the causes of health disparities? Survivors of enslavement wrote about their illnesses as conditions caused by inadequate basic needs and healthcare, violence, and stress, like Frederick Douglass (1845) and Harriet Jacobs (1861). In 1906, Harvard-trained sociologist W.E.B. DuBois researched social determinants of health to oppose the dominant theory of somatic “inferiority” of Black Americans. 

Historical inquiry contextualizes current health disparities, and also provides precedents for antiracist responses to them.

II. Current Perspectives on Race and Health

Literature invites people to consider health, illness, and the social factors impacting them to gain new perspectives outside their own worldview. Rhetorical analysis also asks us to pay attention to who is speaking, on what occasion, to whom, and for what purpose. Critical race theory in literary studies is a rigorous method of structural analysis that, in part, privileges the perspectives of people of color who have been silenced and marginalized in print and public discourse. It prioritizes individual and community points of view to counter the dehumanization of describing health through statistics alone (see, for example, ethicist Keisha Ray, “Going Beyond the Data” [2021]). Overall, storytelling enables people to speak and listen with attention to the social identities that permeate everyone’s health and illness, and creates a forum for personal and shared testimonies. 

Racism has of course affected not only enslaved people of African descent, but also immigrant and indigenous communities. Here are three texts with prompts for discussion on specific health issues and their intricate relationship to racial identity:

The short story “Stars” by Ye Chun details the experience of Luyao’s stroke and aphasia as a new mother and new American; how does this story call out anti-Asian bias in US treatment regimens? How does the story affirm Luyao’s therapeutic inventiveness and make a case for person-centered, linguistically-consonant care?

In her memoir The Scalpel and the Silver Bear, Lori Arviso Alvord, the first Navajo woman surgeon, narrates her navigation of structural barriers to access education and medical education outside her reservation home, which is a legacy of colonial oppression of indigenous peoples. How does her perspective on Navajo health change when she returns to her home community to treat people with biomedical methods? How do Navajo concepts of community and social practices enable Dr. Alvord to innovate surgical outcomes to benefit all patients?

In “Greens,” a personal nonfiction essay, Kiese Laymon describes his own eating disorder and the addictions of his family members in Mississippi. He uses the second person “you,” to address his narrative to his mother. In an interview, he describes using this technique to intentionally speak to vulnerable Black people. How does this essay highlight the theme of physical and behavioral responses to racism? What points are asserted through its rhetorical structure in terms of whose health story is being told, to whom, and for what purpose(s)?

Finally, taken together, what do these three narratives suggest about health issues and/or assets among diverse US communities?

III. Envisioning Equitable Futures

Critical thinking about racialized experiences of health in the past and present enable us to imagine an equitable future for all. Science fiction abounds with dystopias that paint a bleak picture of the future, which often amplify acute present problems. The film Black Box (2020, dir. Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour) dramatizes a mother’s abuse of futuristic biotechnology in Black male bodies in response to losing her son. Chang-Rae Lee’s speculative novel On Such a Full Sea (2014) projects a future in which Chinese refugees of environmental toxicity produce consumer luxuries in a depopulated US city for wealthy gated communities hoarding medical treatments while rural areas must rely on veterinarians for human healthcare; see Phillip Barrish’s essay “Speculative Fiction and the Political Economy of Healthcare” (2019) for an argument about the power of the humanities to enable structural analysis of health inequity.

Dystopian fiction extrapolates the consequences of existing social inequity in order to urge reform. But speculative fiction also creates space for the ethical imagination of societies that have eliminated disparities and that structurally support health and wellbeing for all. Speculative world-building and constructing alternative realities can inform productive dialogue and collective action. Afrofuturism in particular reimagines the past, present, and future as a survival tactic. For example, in Medicine and Ethics in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction, scholar Esther L. Jones shows that the fiction of Octavia Butler, Nnedi Okrafor and Nalo Hopkinson “authoriz[e] black womanist methods and strategies of healing in hostile environments while at the same time imagining new ethical norms” that extend to all vulnerable people (147). According to Walidah Imarisha, an editor of the anthology of speculative tales by activists Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, “Whenever we try to envision a world without war, without violence, without prisons, without capitalism, we are engaging in speculative fiction. All organizing is science fiction.”  

The humanities play an essential role in dismantling structural inequity and addressing race-based health disparities. For more projects on health humanities as public health initiatives, see Translational Humanities for Public Health.