Dr. James Marion Sims

  • Sculptor: Ferdinand von Miller II
  • Pedestal: Aymar Embury II
  • Dedicated: 1892
  • Medium and size: Overall 12.5 feet. Bronze (8.75 feet), granite pedestal (approximately 9 feet)
  • Location: Central Park at Fifth Avenue and 103rd Street, across from the Academy of Medicine
  • Subway: 6 to 103rd Street


As Good as It Used to Get


Above: In this painting by Winthrop Chandler of Dr. William Clysson (ca. 1780), the physician does a check-up on a woman by taking her pulse - while the rest of her body remains discreetly hidden by the bed curtains. If Mrs. George  Washington, Mrs. Alexander Hamilton, or Mrs. Thomas Jefferson got sick, this is most likely the sort of treatment they’d have received.

Exam by 

Above: It was considered less erotic to touch than to see. Well into the 19th century, physicians were allowed to feel but not look.

If you self-diagnosed a “female complaint,” there were of course remedies!

Patent medicine 

Above: Bonnore's Electro Magnetic Bathing Fluid, a cure for Neuralgia, Cholera, Rheumaticsm, Paralysis, Hip Disease, Measles, Female Complaints, Necrosis, Chronic Abcesses, Mercurial Eruptions, Epilepsy, and Scarlet Fever.


Above: "Philotoken or Female's Friend, Warranted co cure painful menstruation, and to relieve and control Histeria, Nausea, and all Nervous irregularities, especially while enciente." ("Enceinte" means pregnant.)

Sims’s Importance

From a biography of Sims:

In the early 1880s it was a rare person indeed who had not heard of Sims. Not only was he one of America's most famous physicians: he was an international legend, a controversial cosmopolite whose ability to blaze new trails and to effect remarkable cures kept him almost constantly in the limelight and brought him hordes of friends, not a few enemies, and a fabulous income wherever he went - which was practically everywhere. ... [Sims] was the physician who brought new hope and new life to women, the surgeon who, more than any other, dispelled the age-old fatalistic belief that it was God's will for countless wives and mothers to go to an early grave or to suffer lifelong invalidism. -- Seale Harris, Woman's Surgeon (1950), pp. xv-xvi

Cross References

Copyright (c) 2013 Dianne L. Durante