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  • Writer's pictureCatharine Riggs

Body Image as Theme

My great-aunt Helena was fat. Or so my mother said. She also graduated from medical school in 1925, was the first woman to earn tenure in the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Medicine, and was the first to hold a senior professorship in neuropathology. She wrote books and articles on her specialty, mentored her younger colleagues, and hand-sewed the most exquisite dresses, which arrived once a year on our doorstep in a lavender-scented box. Yet the only thing I remember my mother saying about Dr. Helena Riggs was, “Poor Aunt Helena. She’s single and she’s fat.”

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