Research Programs: Awards for Faculty

Period of Performance

8/1/2016 - 7/31/2017

Funding Totals

$50,400.00 (approved)
$50,400.00 (awarded)

Helen Dickens and Medical Activism in Philadelphia, 1935-1980

FAIN: HB-232147-16

Ameenah Shakir
Florida A&M University (Tallahassee, FL 32307-3102)

Writing and additonal research for a book about the medical activism of Helen Dickens during the years of 1935 to 1980.

I am applying for a twelve month grant for full funding to complete additional research and revise dissertation chapters into a manuscript. Specifically, my project focuses on obstetrician and gynecologist Helen Dickens, an African American woman and dynamic champion for reproductive rights who worked alongside clubwomen to establish community maternal clinics, as well as desegregate medical schools and hospitals. A groundbreaking study, it pushes the perimeters of the literature on the history of African-American women's claims for citizenship to encompass the emergence of female demands for improved access to health care during the Great Depression and throughout the post-World War II period. African-American women's construction of health care reform in Philadelphia provides a necessary corrective to prior assumptions regarding a perceived dearth of physicians' civil rights efficacy. Based on previously untapped archival sources, my book project demonstrates that women's articulation of health care politics in the urban milieu not only challenges traditional temporal boundaries of civil rights advocacy it reinforces the current shift toward analyzing female agency within the medical field.

Media Coverage

African-American Women Doctors in the Early 20th Century (Media Coverage)
Publication: C-SPAN Lectures in History Series
Date: 9/17/2016
Abstract: I discussed African American women doctors in the early 20th century, specifically Dickens work with other physicians in Philadelphia. I described their efforts on behalf of other African American women in the areas of birthing practices and cancer prevention. I argued that many of theses doctors saw a connection between race and health activism.

Associated Products

Dr. Helen Dickens and the Quest for Medical Citizenship in post-World War II Philadelphia (Article)
Title: Dr. Helen Dickens and the Quest for Medical Citizenship in post-World War II Philadelphia
Author: Ameenah Shakir
Abstract: This article represents a preliminary analysis of the complex relationship between African American club women and cancer prevention programs in post-World War II Philadelphia. It uses the life and career of Dr. Helen Dickens, as a window into one African American female obstetrician and gynecologist cancer prevention initiatives that aided in reducing disparities in healthcare from 1946 to 1972. She was a member of several prominent clubs the National Council of Negro Women, Junior Business and Professional League of Philadelphia, and the sorority Delta Sigma Theta. Focusing on Dickens’s work within these organizations in Philadelphia points out the continuity of black women’s health activism in the realm of cancer prevention by stressing the interplay between women’s civic groups and physicians. Significantly, Dickens defined access to health care as a democratic right, appropriating notions of citizenship to the practice of medicine. Exploring African American women’s contribution is thus important in order to fully appreciate the broader social landscape in which cancer prevention programs developed in twentieth century America.
Year: 2016
Access Model: Subscription Only
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: The Griot: The Journal of African American Studies
Publisher: Southern Conference of African American Studies