In 1919, two years after women secured suffrage in New York, a pair of the country’s most distinguished and prominent women lawyers sought positions in New York City’s judiciary. Only one succeeded. Jean Norris was appointed to a low-level criminal court position focused on prostitution and family disputes, making her the state’s first woman judge. Heralded as an early step in women’s political empowerment, the selection seemed to be an unambiguous stride forward in women’s rights.
In 1909, T. Wah Hing was indicted for feticide. At that time, forty-year-old Hing had been practicing traditional Chinese medicine for more than two decades in a home and office on J Street, between Seventh and Eighth in Sacramento, that he shared with his father, an immigrant from China who went by the same name. Chinese doctors practicing in the United States like T. Wah Hing terminated unwanted pregnancies for their patients when abortion was illegal and the American Medical Association (AMA) officially opposed its practice.
historians. So when I came across a story of divorce and abandonment involving economist George Gunton, one of my research subjects, my work received some personal background that I didn’t expect. In piecing together newspaper reports and letters that George’s wife Amelia sent to Columbia University professor Edwin Seligman, I found out that Gunton had been illegally married to two women at the same time, deserting Amelia and leaving her nearly destitute.