Freedom from Worry: Douching as a Case Study for Historical Archaeological Approaches to Women's Health Thesis uri icon



  • Thesis (M.A., Anthropology) | In the last 15 years, a moderate number of scholarly articles and cultural resource technical reports have recognized douching paraphernalia in archaeological contexts. While these analyses contribute to a greater understanding of this behavior, douching among women in the past for contraceptive purposes and from brothel contexts has been heavily emphasized. Furthermore, as health and hygiene artifacts, much archaeological scholarship has emphasized functionality--basic uses and treatment. Harm reduction and self medication--popular approaches in medical anthropology that are largely underexplored in archaeology--provide useful insights into human responses to sickness in the past. As a practice still common among American women today, douching provides a unique case study for archaeologists to explore motivations into treating social and medical issues diachronically that include birth control, venereal disease, infection, inflammation, general hygiene, and even cancer. Drawing from archaeological evidence recovered from late 19th and early 20th century residential and `red-light' neighborhoods across the American West, archival research, and contemporary medical literature, this thesis explores a much more complex social behavior than has been previously noted.

publication date

  • December 15, 2013

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