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Am J Public Health. 2002 Jan;92(1):36-44.

Public careers and private sexuality: some gay and lesbian lives in the history of medicine and public health.

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Department of History, Baruch College, The City University of New York, 17 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10010, USA.


This study explores the careers of 5 physicians active in public health and medicine during the first half of the 20th century to illustrate interactions between private and professional life. An examination of these individuals, who might today be variously designated as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer, suggests how historical understanding can be enriched by a greater willingness to investigate intimacy and sexual life as potentially relevant to career and achievements. Further, the narratives support a plea for all historians to provide readers with a more frank acknowledgment of the possible relevance of personal life to intellectual work, even in the sciences. Additionally, this historical exploration of ways that careers and achievements may have been affected by a person's homosexuality (even when the person did not publicly embrace a gay identity) opens up a new area of research through biographical sketches based on historical sources combined with generalizations that are intentionally provisional. Included are the stories of Sara Josephine Baker, Harry Stack Sullivan, Ethel Collins Dunham, Martha May Eliot, and Alan L. Hart.

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