Introduction: Making the Medicinal Poisoner

  • Sara L. Crosby
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science and Medicine book series (PLSM)


Crosby contends that the entry of women and minorities into the public sphere as political and discursive agents, including as members of the medical profession, was facilitated by a broader cultural change in metaphors: namely, in the figure of the poisonous woman. Historically, the specter of the poisonous woman has been used to exclude women and minorities from full citizenship, but democratizing reformers avoided reframing the dangerous figure until the second half of the nineteenth century, at which point American popular culture witnessed a feminist “medicalization” of the misogynist fantasy that transformed her into a heroic doctor. In this introduction, Crosby establishes the backstory to this frame shift—namely, the Democratic Party’s creation of the innocent “Democratic poisoner” and the Popular Health Movement’s empowerment of women as healers.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sara L. Crosby
    • 1
  1. 1.The Ohio State University at MarionMarionUSA

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