The Mother and the Monster: How Faked Images of Deformed Skeletons Turned Corseted Women into Criminals

Any woman who has attained the age of thirty years, from the day of the promulgation of this law, may wear a corset of such model as she pleases, except, however, during pregnancy.” So reads the second clause of a proposed law from the 1908 medical textbook Le Corset by Ludovic O’Followell, a doctor practicing in Paris. The exclusion of pregnant women from those who would legally be allowed to corset stems from the idea that the garment would be used to self-abort. Yet much of what O’Followell writes in the rest of his book has no basis in medical fact, nor in medical practices of the day. This talk will explore what O’Followell faked, and how the manufactured debate around the safety of corsets predicted the modern abortion debate.


Rebecca Gibson’s published works include “Desire in the Age of Robots and AI: An Investigation in Science Fiction and Fact” (Palgrave Macmillan 2019), “The Corseted Skeleton: A Bioarchaeology of Binding” (Palgrave Macmillan 2020), and “Gender, Supernatural Beings, and the Liminality of Death: Monstrous Males/Fatal Females” (Lexington Books 2021). She holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from American University, and when not writing or teaching can be found reading mystery novels amidst a pile of stuffed animals.

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