SciFri Extra: Charly Evon Simpson On ‘Behind The Sheet’
In this extended interview, playwright Charly Evon Simpson discusses the enslaved women whose bodies paved the way for modern gynecology.
The 19th-century physician J. Marion Sims may have gone down in history as the “father of modern gynecology,” but Sims’ fistula cure was the result of experimental surgeries, pre-Emancipation, on at least 11 enslaved black women. Only three of those names have been remembered—Anarcha, Betsey, and Lucy. A new play, Behind The Sheet, imagines their life—not just the pain, but the friendships they might have formed to support each other through surgery after surgery.
In this extended conversation, Science Friday producer Christie Taylor talks to playwright Charly Evon Simpson about the process of inventing a story for these women despite the limited documentation of their lives, the controversy around a J. Marion Sims statue in New York City, and Sims’ legacy in black women’s maternal health outcomes today.
Behind The Sheet was funded in part by The Sloan Foundation, which is also a funder of Science Friday.