Their names—at least the ones we know—were Lucy, Anarcha, and Betsey. There were other women, but their identities have been forgotten.
The man whose name appears in medical textbooks, whose likeness is memorialized in statues, is J. Marion Sims. Celebrated as the “father of modern gynecology,” Sims practiced the surgical techniques that made him famous on enslaved women: Lucy, Anarcha, Betsey, and the unknown others. He performed 30 surgeries on Anarcha alone, all without anesthesia, as it was not yet widespread. He also invented the modern speculum, and the Sims’s position for vaginal exams, both of which he first used on these women.
That Sims achieved all this has long won him acclaim; how he achieved all this—by experimenting on enslaved women—started being included in his story much more recently. And on Tuesday morning, in the face of growing controversy, New York City moved a statue honoring him out of Central Park.