Posts Tagged ‘statues in New York City’

The controversial founder of Women’s Hospital

February 13, 2012

At the time of his death in 1893, there was no controversy at all: Dr. J. Marion Sims was heralded as a surgical pioneer and a hero—thought of so highly, a statue memorializing him went up a year later in Bryant Park.

Sims’ achievement: He developed an operation that repaired vesico-vaginal fistulas—tears in the vaginal wall that often resulted during childbirth.

Women who suffered from them became invalids and outcasts because the tear allowed urine to leak constantly from the body. They’re unheard of now, except in the developing world.

After perfected his technique in the South, Sims came to New York and opened Women’s Hospital in 1855, the first women’s hospital in the country.

“Located on Madison Avenue and 29th Street in a rented, four-story house, the hospital’s 30 beds were quickly filled,” states St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Medical Center, which absorbed Women’s Hospital in 1964.

“In those early days, Sims operated without assistance from other doctors, performing one fistula repair each day.”

Sims shared his technique with doctors worldwide. In New York, Women’s Hospital outgrew its Madison Avenue digs and relocated to Park Avenue and 51st Street, then 109th Street and Amsterdam Avenue.

Today his statue is at Fifth Avenue and 103rd Street. Yet last year, a city councilwoman pushed to have it removed.

Why? Because Sims developed his surgery on female slaves in the South, and he didn’t use anesthesia—and modern-day critics have labeled him as racist and sexist because of this.

[Sims statue: Photo via Central Park Conservatory]

The Lincoln assassination victim from New York

October 27, 2011

It’s hard not to notice the imposing bronze statue of a cross-legged, Lincoln-like man looming over the southwest corner of Madison Square Park on 23rd Street.

That man is William H. Seward, 19th century abolitionist governor and senator from New York State who served as secretary of state under President Lincoln.

Seward never lived in the city. But his name lives on here (think Seward Park and Seward Avenue in the Bronx) because he was recognized as a great statesman . . . and maybe also thanks to his miraculous luck surviving the Lincoln assassination conspiracy in 1865.

On the night of April 14, as John Wilkes Booth aimed a gun at President Lincoln in Ford’s Theater, Booth conspirator Lewis Powell conned his way into Seward’s D.C. home, repeatedly stabbing him (below).

Incredibly, Seward didn’t succumb to his wounds; supposedly a splint on his jaw protected his jugular vein.

He recovered and stayed on as secretary of state until 1869, then died in 1872.

Oh, and don’t believe the myth that the Madison Square statue is merely Seward’s head attached to a preexisting mold of Lincoln’s body. The New York Parks Department assures us that it is not.