The Art of Reproductive Healthcare

by Maija Anderson, Head of Historical Collections & Archives, OHSU Library

September 16, 2014

Medical illustrator Clarice Ashworth Francone produced these sketches of the female reproductive system sometime between 1936-1969, the years of her long career at University of Oregon Medical School. Haphazardly taped together and annotated, they show the beginning of Francone’s artistic process, which also included close consultation with healthcare practitioners, often in clinical settings. Francone’s final products were exquisitely detailed drawings and paintings, which were published in medical texts worldwide and earned her a reputation as one of the finest medical illustrators of her time.


Francone’s drawings are just a few of the works displayed in the exhibit, “Women, Power, and Reproductive Healthcare: Highlights from 19th and 20th Obstetrical and Gynecological Practice,” on view from September-December 2014 in OHSU’s Main Library, BICC building. Other items from OHSU history include public health studies conducted by Department of Gynecology in the 1920s-1940s, addressing issues such as abortion and sexually transmitted diseases. Also included in the exhibit are records of Birth Home, Inc., Oregon’s first birthing center, active from 1982-1988. OHSU’s Martha Goetsch, M.D., M.P.H., one of the Birth Home’s first practitioners, facilitated the preservation of these records in OHSU’s archives.

These documents of local history are displayed among rare books and artifacts, including an interactive obstetrical atlas published in 1850, and examples of 19th-20th century medical equipment and contraceptive devices. Curated by library employee Crystal Rodgers, the exhibit brings a critical perspective to the relationship between gender and healthcare, and offers a fascinating glimpse into historical ob/gyn practices.

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