Where Sims Statue Stood, Time to Honor a Black or Latina Medical Pioneer

(Photo via East Harlem Preservation)

Now that the statue of gynecologist J. Marion Sims has been removed from its pedestal on Fifth Avenue and 103rd Street, Easter Harlem Preservation is seeking input on who should be honored at the site. The advocacy group had long argued for the removal of the statue of Sims, who in the 1840s operated on enslaved Black women without anesthesia and without their consent.

East Harlem Preservation is asking people to participate in a Google survey to help select new honorees from a list of Black and Latina medical pioneers. The survey, entitled “Monumental Women: Honoring Black and Latina Medical Pioneers,” suggests that Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsey, who were among the first women experimented on by Sims, could be honored.

Other possibilities include Dr. Rebecca Crumpler, the first Black woman awarded a medical degree from a U.S. college (1864), Mary Eliza Mahoney, RN, the first Black woman awarded a nursing degree (1879) and Dr. Dolores Mercedes Piñero, one of the first female doctors in Puerto Rico and the first Puerto Rican woman to serve as a doctor with the U.S. Army (1913). Also on the list is Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman whose cancer cells were (unbeknownst to her and her family) the source of the HeLa cell line, the first immortalized cell line and one of the most important cell lines in medical research (1951).

To view the complete list and cast your vote, click here.

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