History of Anarchaserver and Feminists Servers visit this section

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Who was Anarcha?

Anarcha was an African American slave woman. She was one of the seventy-five slaves who worked the Wescott plantation, just on the outskirts of Montgomery, Alabama.

Anarcha went into labor one day. Three days later, she was still in labor. Dr Marion Sims was called in to assist the delivery. He writes in his autobiography that he used forceps on the fetus’s head but that he really didn’t know what he was doing since he’d had so little experience with the device. We don’t know whether the baby survived the ordeal. We do know that the mother experienced several vaginal tears from the birthing. She became incontinent afterwards due to the damage.

Anarcha MarionSims5.png

This 1952 painting by Robert Thom is the only known representation of Lucy, Anarcha and Betsey. Pearson Museum, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine

A few days later, the master of the plantation sent Anarcha to Dr Sims hoping he could repair the damage to his slave, as she could not hold her bowls or bladder. As her master’s chattel, her condition reduced her value considerably.

Sims took in the patient reluctantly. He put her up on his examination table, on her hands and knees and, using a modified pewter spoon to expand the walls of her vagina, he accidentally released the pressure that held her uterus in an awkward position. Anarcha felt immediate relief as the change in air pressure helped her uterus to relocate back into its proper position.

Through an agreement with her master, Anarcha became Dr Sims's guinea pig. She regularly underwent surgical experiments, while positioned on Sims’s table, squatting on all fours, and fully awake without the comfort of any anesthesia. It was commonly accepted that African Americans had a higher tolerance for pain than their white counterparts. Commonly accepted but utterly wrong.

Anarcha’s fistula (from her vaginal tears) was repaired by Sims. Sims thus became the leading expert in repairing this damage that seemed to occur in a good number of births by slave women. Though Sims was sent many slave women with fistulas, we know from his biography that he experimented repeatedly on Anarcha, as well as two other slaves, Betsy and Lucy.

Anarcha was experimented upon, and drugged up later, not to ease her pain as much as to stifle her moans. It has been calculated that she had been operated on, perhaps, 34 times. She, Betsy, Lucy, and countless others helped Dr Sims hone his techniques and create his gynecological tools. Though on display in museums, many of Dr Sims’s tools have modern counterparts that are used today.

Anarcha, Betsey, and Lucy left no written legacy. Slaves were forbidden to read and write, a crime punishable by death.

And though science today looks back on Sims’s work ambiguously, truly unsure as to his level of success, or whether he should be credited as the father of gynecology, we now know who the mothers of modern gynecology were: they were the nameless and faceless slave women upon whom Dr Sims experimented.

Today we have just three names: Anarcha, Betsey, and Lucy. It is our hope that these names will never be forgotten.

You can learn and read more about the story of those women in the websites related to:



Remembering Anarcha, Betsy, and Lucy, The True Mothers of Gynecology

Wellness directory of Minnesota

Marion Sims: Father Butcher by Wendy Brinker

A Note on the Scientific & Historical Context of BEHIND THE SHEET

Why a feminist server?

Feminist servers have been a topic of discussion, a partially-achieved aim and a set of slow-political practices among an informal group of transfeminists interested in creating a more autonomous infrastructure to ensure that data, projects and memory of feminist groups are properly accessible, preserved and managed. The need for feminist servers is a response to: the unethical practices of multinational ICT companies acting as moral and hypocrite censors; gender based online violence in the form of trolling and hateful mysoginists harassing feminist or women activists online and offline; the centralization of the internet and its transformation into a consumption sanctuary and a space of surveillance, control and tracking of dissent voices by government agencies among others.

All these factors have led to a situation where the internet is not a safe space and where it is common to see feminist and activist work being deleted, censored, and/or prevented from being seen, heard or read. Freedom of expression is part of the feminist struggle and TransFeminists can contribute by providing collectively the knowledge and means to ensure their right to speak up remains accessible online, offline and wherever and under any format expression emerges. A feminist internet also requires self-managed and autonomous feminist servers.

This is about regaining control and gaining autonomy in the access and management of our data and collective memories. It is also about being able to have feminist mailing lists, pads, wikis, content management systems, social networks and any other online services managed by feminist tech collectives. It is also of course about continuing to argue that social justice in technologically driven environments needs a more gender and culturally diverse presence in general. To achieve those objectives, many sessions during the THF discussed questions such as: what are the purposes of a Feminist Server? What makes a server autonomous and feminist? Where are possible (socially sustainable) models for those servers? How do we create trust among us to develop cooperative approaches to the management of those spaces of resistance and transformation? From what are made our dreamed-embodied feminist technologies?

List of Feminist servers

The history of feminist servers does not start in 2014 as we know about previous initiatives that had similar intentions such as Samedies: Femmes et Logiciels libres started in 2006 in Bruxelles, or Birosca, another project for women and free software from Brasil. If you know about other initiatives of feminists servers please share with us!

The story we know about started in 2014 when two feminist servers projects were rebooted during the TransHackFeminist convergence in Calafou: the Systerserver project which was originally launched by Genderchangers and the Eclectic Tech Carnival and which focus on hosting online services; and Anarchaserver which was launched by Calafou inhabitants and people involved in the organisation of the THF! and focus on hosting living/dead/transitional data.

In 2015, friends located in Mexico launched an autonomous server that also provides support and hosting to feminist collectives, it is called Kefir. In 2016, a new feminist server was launched by members of the feminist hackerspace Marialab located in Sao Paolo (Brazil) called Vedetas. Finally, another syster initiative was set up in Brasil called Cl4ndestinas. To note also the collaborative project between Kefir, Periféricas e Vedetas (México, Salvador e São Paulo) focused in setting up Redes Autonomas Feministas (Autonomous Feminist Networks) set up in 2016.

Since then more and more feminist infrastructure initiatives came along, you can check some of their services in this section.

Reading and listening

  • 2018: Interview with spideralex in Panthere Premiere, issue n°4, on feminists servers. You can download the interview in french here:

File:Pantheres 4 serveursfeministes.pdf Online version of the article

  • 2018: Interview with spideralex in Neural n°61, special issue on Cyberfeminism, will share next months the pdf

and also Necesitamos interfaces que nos hagan libres - We need interfaces that makes us free

  • 2017: By Nanda (Vedetas) and Nadege (Kefir) a manifesto called #From steel to skin available in different languages:


  • 2016: Article entitled QueerOS: A User’s Manual by fiona barnett, zach blas, micha cardenas, jacob gaboury, jessica marie johnson, margaret rhee
  • 2013: Notes taken during the Feminist Server Summit [2] hosted by Constant In Brussels in December 2013. Other links about the "Are you being served?" 2013 event can be found here and here. The book about the event can be downloaded here.

A feminist server ...

Is a situated technology. Her sense of context results from a federation of competences;

Is run for and by a community that cares enough for her in order to make her exist;

Has an awareness of the materiality of software, hardware and the bodies gathered around it;

Treats network technology as part of a social reality;

Is able to scale up or down, and change processing speed whenever resources require;

At the risk of exposing her own insecurity, opens up processes, tools, sources, habits, patterns;

Does not strive for seamlessness. Talk of transparency too often signals that something needs to be made invisible;

Radically questions the conditions for serving and service; experiments with changing client – server relations where she can;

Avoids efficiency, ease-of-use and reliability because they can be traps Knows that networking is actually a parasitic, promiscuous and often awkward practice;

Is autonomous in the sense that she tries to decide for her own dependencies Takes control because she wants networks to be mutable and read-write accessible;

Faces her freedom with determination. Vulnerability is not an alibi;

Is a paranodal (we did not mean: paranoid) technology. A feminist server is both inside and outside the network;

Does not confuse a sense of false security with providing a safe place; Tries hard not to apologise when she is sometimes not available.

Circuit Board Painting.jpg

Image by Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga