Dr. J. Marion Sims
is credited for finding a treatment for vesicovaginal fistulas and inventing the Sims' speculum, revolutionizing modern vaginal surgery. But Harlem residents say a statue of the doctor, which was moved from Bryant Park to around 103rd Street and Fifth Avenue in Central Park in 1934, has no place in Harlem. Why? Because the doctor tested his treatments on three slave women with no anesthetics. City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito said the memorial needs to be re-evaluated. She told the Post, “As time goes on and history is re-evaluated, some of these individuals who have been memorialized will be rightly challenged."
Sims performed experimental surgeries on Lucy, Betsey, and Anarcha for about four years, performing about 30 surgeries on Anarcha before deeming her "cured" of vesicovaginal fistula, which she developed after childbirth. He also reportedly "operated repeatedly without success on patients who had no say in the decision-making process that led up to their surgeries. He used opium to render them addicted and immobile." The Parks Department said they will update the statue's plaque, saying, “While the City does not remove art retroactively on the basis of content, we are adding an historical sign to address the complex and controversial history of Dr. J. Marion Sims’ life and work." But is a new plaque enough?
Marina Ortiz of East Harlem Preservation said, “I find that argument disingenuous — the city won’t move a statue for a matter of content, but they’ll do it for convenience?" According to an EHP poll, 433 voters think that the statue should be removed, and 160 say they need more information. Meanwhile, we should probably do something about all those Columbus statues. Thanks for the smallpox, asshole.