Deirdre Cooper Owens
Areas of Specialty
History of Medicine; Slavery; 19th Century U.S. History; Women’s History
Deirdre Cooper Owens believes she was born to be a historian. Born to Gullah/Geechee parents from South Carolina’s Low Country, she was raised around folks who told oral histories of their family members, historical events, and the enslaved. Her mother is the family’s genealogist and her father worked at the National Archives for over 30 years. It was this background in both SC and Washington, DC that nurtured her love of the past. Today, Prof. Cooper Owens is a popular public speaker, writer, and reproductive justice advocate. She has published both scholarly and popular pieces on issues that concern African American historical experiences ranging from slavery to contemporary reproductive justice. She is an Organization of American Historians’ (OAH) Distinguished Lecturer, a past American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Fellow and has won several prestigious honors and awards for her scholarly and advocacy work in history and reproductive and birthing justice. She is also proud of the advocacy and consulting work she provides to those institutions dedicated to dismantling the current black birthing crisis. Her first book, Medical Bondage: Race, Gender and the Origins of American Gynecology garnered a Darlene Clark Hine Prize from the Organization of American Historians. It has recently been translated into Korean and is being translated into Brazilian Portuguese. She is currently working on a popular biography of Harriet Tubman that examines the revolutionary through the lens of disability and a monograph about the history of race, medical discovery, and the C-section.
She is jointly-appointed faculty with the Africana Studies Institute.
“Harriet Tubman’s Disability and Why it Matters,” Ms. Magazine (2022)
“Black Maternal and Infant Health: Historical Legacies of Slavery” by Deirdre Cooper Owens and Sharla Fett, American Journal of Public Health (2019)
Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and The Origins of American Gynecology (UGA Press, 2017)
INVITED TALKS AND CONFERENCE PAPERS
HONORS AND AWARDS