GREATER TRAGEDY befalls no woman than she whose parturition is followed by a vesicovaginal fistula. Never again will she know the joy of dry clothing. Rejected from her marital bed, ostracized by family and friends, she lives alone in her unriniferous ectoplasm unable to escape her own stench. This greatest of all misfortunes was so prevalent during the 19th century as to inspire a hospital dedicated to its cure, the Woman's Hospital of New York. Its founder was James Marion Sims, that diligent Southerner who brought relief to these afflicted women. He was the father of American gynecology.
There is no more romantic story in all medical history than that of his valiant effort to design an operation for the cure of vesicovaginal fistula. In his Story of My Life, Sims relates his struggles over a period of 4 years with repeated operations upon two slave women, Lucy and