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In The Hands of Women

In the Hands of Women, a riveting historical suspense novel, centers on the life of Hannah Isaacson, an obstetrician in training, determined to improve medical safety for women in a time when women had few choices. This carefully researched work, set in Baltimore and New York City in the year 1900, when birth control and abortion were both illegal, leaves us contemplating whether history is repeating itself. 


With the advent of obstetrics and anesthesia as distinct fields of practice at the turn of the twentieth century, hospital births rapidly gained popularity. Midwives, who previously cared for these women, began supplementing their shrinking incomes with abortions, sometimes performing dangerous midterm abortions with disastrous consequences. 


Hannah, a devoted women’s advocate and suffragist, finds herself overwhelmed by the ignorance and medical needs of her patients, poor and wealthy. She is determined to make a difference and joins Margaret Sanger in her crusade to overturn the restrictive Comstock Laws prohibiting birth control. After coming to the aid of a woman dying from a butchered abortion, Hannah is charged with murder and sent to the terrifying Blackwell’s Prison to await her trial. With the support of influential friends, including the female trustees of Johns Hopkins Medical School, she challenges the Governor of New York with a novel proposition.

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"The author deftly captures the social challenges for women of the era, when sexism restricted their access to the best protections that science could offer. One can’t help but be impressed by the rigor of the author’s research; ..." "The depiction of the era in which Hannah lives is so vividly instructive that it makes this a worthwhile read, especially at a time when its principal lessons seem on the verge of being forgotten"


"Rubin has written a fascinating novel, well-paced and brimming with historical detail. It’s 1905 in New York City, a time and place of dramatic social changes. Hannah Isaacson has graduated from a major university with an MD in obstetrics but faces widespread discrimination as a professional woman. She encounters chronic antisemitism, realistically depicted. One can’t help cheering her on as she fights for decent health care for women, for equality within the medical profession, and for respect in her own personal relationships. Ultimately, In the Hands of Women is a compelling and heartwarming historical novel. "

Libby H. O’Connell
Chief Historian Emeritus, History Channel, and author, THE AMERICAN PLATE

"Jane Rubin’s stunning debut, In The Hands Of Women, is historical fiction at its best.  Hannah Isaacson, a young doctor at Mount Sinai Hospital is a force, fighting for women’s healthcare in the early 1900’s. She confronts anti-semitism and demands equal treatment in her professional and personal life. With empathy, Rubin takes us through the travails of the medical system when poor women had little access to good maternity care. Her impeccable research weaves the subjects of midwifery and abortion within the intricacies of the twentieth century class system in New York. Rubin’s characters stay with me. They’re compassionate, smart, and strong. Reading this page-turner gave me more than a thrilling read. It gave me a lesson on history and how we can do better. I couldn’t put it down."

"A rallying cry from the past to women of today to defend our rights, especially our medical ones – and a reminder of the horrors that can occur when we don’t. An immaculately researched and immersive debut novel."

Michelle Cameron
Award-winning author of BEYOND THE GHETTO GATES

"Jane Loeb Rubin’s In the Hands of Women is a compelling and well-researched novel centered on women’s reproductive healthcare challenges in circa 1900 New York, as told by Hannah Isaacson, a Johns Hopkins-educated doctor who, as a woman and a Jew, faces misogyny and anti-Semitism on multiple fronts. Rubin’s story is a page-turner, with something for everyone, at once a great book club selection, a sophisticated beach read, and fascinating historical fiction, which resonates with today's abortion battles and influx of immigrants struggling for a better life amid widespread pushback.  Rubin delivers a story of one visionary woman’s many professional and personal battles, and her eventual triumph.  It is also a story of love lost and found, and an eye-opening education in history for those hoping it won’t repeat itself.  In short, this book is a must read.  Brava, Jane Rubin!"


Barbara Pagos, Retired Wall Street Executive

"Vividly written and meticulously researched, In the Hands of Women is a gripping story of female friendship, the challenges women doctors faced in the early 1900s, and the noxious impact of antisemitism. Young obstetrician Hannah Isaacson returns home to her beloved sister and to a job at New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital in 1905 after becoming one of the first female graduates of the Johns Hopkins Medical School. But Hannah’s passion for helping pregnant women–at a time when birth control and abortion were illegal–puts her life at risk and leads to high-stake confrontations with her fiancé and some of New York’s most powerful men. I lost myself in this novel as I followed Hannah from high-society restaurants and lower East Side tenements to New York City's hospitals and jails … And I cheered for her every step of the way. I’m crossing my fingers Jane Rubin is working on her next tale starring Hannah and her friends. "

Mally Becker
Agatha Award-nominated author of THE TURNCOAT’S WIDOW and

"In the Hands of Women by Jane Loeb Rubin is a newly released work of medical historical fiction. Set in 1900, in Baltimore and New York, it follows the story of Hannah Isaacson, a young Jewish female physician. During her training, watching the poor obstetrical care provided by male physicians and appalled by the dangerous abortions being performed by midwives (who were being driven out of business by the rising interest in hospital-based deliveries and who needed new sources of income), Hannah makes it her mission to provide better care for pregnant women.

During her time at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, she not only learns medicine but also how to work around male egos in order to accomplish her goals. (She has to let them take the credit for her ideas and work.) Painfully, she also discovers that too many men are not to be trusted.  Nevertheless, she lands her dream job, an obstetrics residency at Mount Sinai in New York. But her troubles are only beginning. 


This novel delves into the historical problems of placing care of women’s health exclusively in male hands. It demonstrates how broader socioeconomic problems affect health care, particularly for women. And it calls out the dangers of limited access to contraception, especially for the poor. While we may be tempted to be thankful for the progress of the last 100 years, such gratitude may be premature. For anyone paying attention, it looks an awful lot like we are heading backwards rather than forwards. This novel deftly illustrates all that is at risk."

Susan Coventry
2011 Bankstreet Best Children's Book of the Year!

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