Susan Reverby

Susan Reverby

Visiting Scholar in the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History

Susan M. Reverby is the Marion Butler McLean Professor Emerita in the History of Ideas and Professor Emerita of Women’s and Gender Studies at Wellesley College. An historian of American women, race, medicine, public health and nursing, she taught at Wellesley from 1982-2016. Her early work focused on American women’s labor history, history of medicine and nursing. She has held fellowships at the Radcliffe Institute, the W.E.B. DuBois Institute, and from the AAUW, ACLS, NEH and National Library of Medicine.

For two decades Reverby was an historian of the infamous “Tuskegee” syphilis study, publishing books, articles, and op eds.   Her edited book Tuskegee’s Truths: Rethinking the Tuskegee Syphilis Study appeared in 2000. Her next book Examining Tuskegee: The Infamous Syphilis Study and its Legacy  (2009) won the Viseltear Prize from the American Public Health Association, the Ralph Waldo Emerson prize from national Phi Beta Kappa, and the Sulzby Prize from the Alabama History Association.

            As part of her research on Tuskegee, Reverby found the records of an unpublished U.S. research study in Guatemala in the 1940s that involved giving sexually transmitted diseases to prisoners, soldiers, sex workers, and mental patients.  She shared her scholarship with the CDC and in October 2010 the U.S. government issues a formal apology to Guatemala. The result was worldwide media coverage, investigations in two countries, lawsuits, and a report from the President’s Bioethical Issues Commission.  In May 2011 she received an honorary degree from Sage College and another one in Social Justice from Roosevelt University in December 2012.

Her current book project is tentatively titled: “Brother Doc: Solidarity and Revolution in 20th Century America.”  Its focus is on a physician who became a world-renowned AIDs researcher and activist, but before that was only the second American physician, after Samuel Mudd who treated Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth, to be indicted for accessory to murder after the fact for treating, but not reporting, a gunshot wound. He was part of a group that practiced “armed propaganda,” did non-lethal bombings including at the U.S. Capitol, spent two years in the underground, and then seven years of very hard time, much in solitary, at some of our worst prisons as a self-declared “political prisoner” of the United States.

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