The extraordinary story of a seventeenth-century French midwife and her treatise on childbirth.
In 1671, Marie Baudoin (1625–1700), head midwife and governor of the Hôtel-Dieu of Clermont-Ferrand, sent a treatise on the art of childbirth to her powerful Parisian patron, Dr. Vallant. The story of how Baudoin’s knowledge and expertise as a midwife came to be expressed, recorded, and archived raises the question: Was Baudoin exceptional because she was herself extraordinary, or because her voice has reached us through Vallant’s careful archival practices? Either way, Baudoin’s treatise invites us to reconsider the limits of what we thought we knew midwives “could be and do” in seventeenth-century France. Grounding Marie Baudoin’s text in a microanalysis of her life, work, and the Jansenist network between Paris and Clermont-Ferrand, this book connects historiographies of midwifery, Jansenism, hospital administration, public health, knowledge and record-keeping, and women’s work, underscoring both Baudoin’s capabilities and the archival accidents and intentions behind the preservation of her treatise in a letter.
From Midwives to Medicine examines the development of modern medical treatment of women and the related history of women's health in the mid-1800s. McGregor looks not only at the medical figures who devised and practiced the innovative therapist, but also at the history of the patient experience in the development and the professionalization of a medical specialty. In exploring the controversial career of J. Marion Sims, "the father of gynecology," and the history of the Woman's Hospital of the State of New York, McGregor chronicles the emergence of a practice involving previously untried medical techniques and the use of experimentation on patients according to a social hierarchy based on race and sex.
Using patient records and archival material from the female governors and administrators at the hospital, From Midwives to Medicine shows how a new medical practice developed out of the changing patterns and historical experiences of childbirth, as well as out of the context of the social relations f the sexes. Sim's patients were slave women in the antebellum South, poor Irish immigrants in the industrial North, and upper-class white. Protestant, Manhattan socialites who sought help for their "hysterical" symptoms. During his career, which began in the South and flourished at the Women's Hospital in New York. Sims performed and perfected his technique to "cure" vesico-vaginal fistulas, the tears of childbirth, from which so many women suffered. But Sims achieved these successes on the operating table only after years of practicing his "silver suture" technique on unanesthetized slave women, who he believed "by the nature of their race... had a specific physiological tolerance for pain unknown to whites."
In the late nineteenth century, Japan's modernizing quest for empire transformed midwifery into a new woman's profession. With the rise of Japanese immigration to the United States, Japanese midwives (sanba) served as cultural brokers as well as birth attendants for Issei women. They actively participated in the creation of Japanese American community and culture as preservers of Japanese birthing customs and agents of cultural change.
Japanese American Midwives reveals the dynamic relationship between this welfare state and the history of women and health. Susan L. Smith blends midwives' individual stories with astute analysis to demonstrate the impossibility of clearly separating domestic policy from foreign policy, public health from racial politics, medical care from women's caregiving, and the history of women and health from national and international politics. By setting the history of Japanese American midwives in this larger context, Smith reveals little-known ethnic, racial, and regional aspects of women's history and the history of medicine.
Edited by Brad R. Huber and Alan R. Sandstrom University of Texas Press, 2001 Library of Congress F1219.3.R38M47 2001 | Dewey Decimal 306.461
Healing practices in Mesoamerica span a wide range, from traditional folk medicine with roots reaching back into the prehispanic era to westernized biomedicine. These sometimes cooperating, sometimes competing practices have attracted attention from researchers and the public alike, as interest in alternative medicine and holistic healing continues to grow.
Responding to this interest, the essays in this book offer a comprehensive, state-of-the-art survey of Mesoamerican healers and medical practices in Mexico and Guatemala. The first two essays describe the work of prehispanic and colonial healers and show how their roles changed over time. The remaining essays look at contemporary healers, including bonesetters, curers, midwives, nurses, physicians, social workers, and spiritualists. Using a variety of theoretical approaches, the authors examine such topics as the intersection of gender and curing, the recruitment of healers and their training, healers' compensation and workload, types of illnesses treated and recommended treatments, conceptual models used in diagnosis and treatment, and the relationships among healers and between indigenous healers and medical and political authorities.
After working all day at the LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City, twenty-one-year-old Laurine Ekstrom would return home to find that her parents had rearranged the furniture again to accommodate Rulon Allred, a homeopath, who used their home to assist women in giving birth. Charismatic and unconventional, Allred was also president and prophet of the Mormon fundamentalist Church known as the Apostolic United Brethren. One day when Allred was delayed, Laurine offered what help she could to the expecting mother, and before long the baby was born. Laurine was soon on her way to becoming the most sought-after midwife in Utah despite the fact that it was against the law for a licensed practical nurse to deliver babies.
Another illegal aspect of her life was her marriage to Leon Kingston, son of another Mormon fundamentalist leader, Charles Elden Kingston. Determined to live the principle of polygamy, Leon married Laurine’s sister Rowenna as well. Leon could not have foreseen that his sister wives would one day become activists, sheltering and advising young polygamist women who had been abused by their husbands. This activism made the sisters unpopular with some extended family. Leon, however, stood by his wives.
Laurine was born in rural Idaho in the 1930s. Her family moved to Bountiful, Utah, and then Salt Lake City in the late 1930s and mid-1940s. In this captivating biography, we learn of her struggle as a teenager to obtain a college education and to succeed as a nurse. More importantly, we learn about the methodology and lore of a modern midwife and the personality of a woman whose comforting way and advocacy of natural childbirth has made her a heroine to many. The same gift that allowed her to understand and assist women dealing with troubled marriages made her a successful midwife.
Diverse Observations is a groundbreaking book available for the first time in English. Written by a midwife committed to improving the care of women and newborns, it records the evolution of Bourgeois’s practice and beliefs, comments on changing attitudes related to reproductive health, and critiques the gendered elitism of the early modern medical hierarchy
The World Health Organization is currently promoting a policy of replacing traditional or lay midwives in countries around the world. As part of an effort to record the knowledge of local midwives before it is lost, Midwives and Mothers explores birth, illness, death, and survival on a Guatemalan sugar and coffee plantation, or finca, through the lives of two local midwives, Doña Maria and her daughter Doña Siriaca, and the women they have served over a forty-year period.
By comparing the practices and beliefs of the mother and daughter, Sheila Cosminsky shows the dynamics of the medicalization process and the contestation between the midwives and biomedical personnel, as the latter try to impose their system as the authoritative one. She discusses how the midwives syncretize, integrate, or reject elements from Mayan, Spanish, and biomedical systems. The midwives’ story becomes a lens for understanding the impact of medicalization on people’s lives and the ways in which women’s bodies have become contested terrain between traditional and contemporary medical practices. Cosminsky also makes recommendations for how ethno-obstetric and biomedical systems may be accommodated, articulated, or integrated. Finally, she places the changes in the birthing system in the larger context of changes in the plantation system, including the elimination of coffee growing, which has made women, traditionally the primary harvesters of coffee beans, more economically dependent on men.
The Bolshevik seizure of power in 1917 and the ensuing communist regime have often been portrayed as a man’s revolution, with women as bystanders or even victims. Midwives of the Revolution examines the powerful contribution made by women to the overthrow of tsarism in 1917 and their importance in the formative years of communism in Russia.
Focusing on the masses as well as the high-ranking intelligentsia, Midwives of the Revolution is the first sustained analysis of female involvement in the revolutionary era of Russian history. The authors investigate the role of Bolshevik women and the various forms their participation took. Drawing on the experiences of representative individuals, the authors discuss the important relationship between Bolshevik women and the workers in the turbulent months of 1917.
The authors demonstrate that women were an integral part of the revolutionary process and challenge assumptions that they served merely to ignite an essentially masculine revolt. By placing women center stage, without exaggerating their roles, this study enriches our understanding of a momentous event in twentieth-century history.
edited by Donna Toland Smart Utah State University Press, 1999 Library of Congress F593.S45A3 1997 | Dewey Decimal 978.02092
Patty Session's 1847 Mormon Trail diary has been widely quoted and excerpted, but her complete diaries chronicling the first decades of Mormon settlement at Salt Lake City have never before been published. They provide a detailed record of early Mormon community life from Illinois to Utah through the eyes of Mormondom's most famous midwife. They also recount her important role in women's social networks and her contributions to community health and Utah's economy, to pioneer education and horticulture. Patty Sessions assisted at the births of hundreds of early Mormons and first-generation Utahns, meticulously recording the events. Shed had an active role in the founding of the Relief Society and health organizations. She spoke in tongues and administered spiritually as well as medically to the ill. Her diaries are a rich resource for early Mormon and Utah history.
Recent anthropological scholarship on “new midwifery” centers on how professional midwives in various countries are helping women reconnect with “nature,” teaching them to trust in their bodies, respecting women’s “choices,” and fighting for women’s right to birth as naturally as possible. In No Alternative, Rosalynn A. Vega uses ethnographic accounts of natural birth practices in Mexico to complicate these narratives about new midwifery and illuminate larger questions of female empowerment, citizenship, and the commodification of indigenous culture, by showing how alternative birth actually reinscribes traditional racial and gender hierarchies.
Vega contrasts the vastly different birthing experiences of upper-class and indigenous Mexican women. Upper-class women often travel to birthing centers to be delivered by professional midwives whose methods are adopted from and represented as indigenous culture, while indigenous women from those same cultures are often forced by lack of resources to use government hospitals regardless of their preferred birthing method. Vega demonstrates that women’s empowerment, having a “choice,” is a privilege of those capable of paying for private medical services—albeit a dubious privilege, as it puts the burden of correctly producing future members of society on women’s shoulders. Vega’s research thus also reveals the limits of citizenship in a neoliberal world, as indigeneity becomes an object of consumption within a transnational racialized economy.
During the twentieth century modern births in America came to involve mostly male physicians, hospitals, technological interventions, and quick, routine procedures. In a unique and detailed historical study, Nurse-Midwifery: The Birth of a New American Profession, Laura E. Ettinger fills a void with the first book-length documentation of the emergence of American nurse-midwifery. This occupation developed in the 1920s involving nurses who took advanced training in midwifery. In Nurse-Midwifery, Ettinger shows how nurse-midwives in New York City; eastern Kentucky; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and other places both rebelled against and served as agents of a nationwide professionalization of doctors and medicalization of childbirth. Nurse-Midwifery reveals the limitations that nurses, physicians, and nurse-midwives placed on the profession of nurse-midwifery from the outset because of the professional interests of nursing and medicine. The book argues that nurse-midwives challenged what scholars have called the “male medical model” of childbirth, but the cost of the compromises they made to survive was that nurse-midwifery did not become the kind of independent, autonomous profession it might have been.
Today, nurse-midwives have assumed a larger role in mainstream health care than before, yet they are still marginalized. As in the past, nurse-midwives’ futures will depend on continuing changes in American attitudes about childbirth, health care, and women professionals as well as on their own ability to adapt to the changes. The history of the profession suggests that nurse-midwives will continue to navigate in difficult waters in a middle space between the mainstream and the margins of medicine and between the nursing profession and midwifery traditions.
Women have long searched for a pleasing birth—a birth with a minimum of fear and pain, in the company of supportive family, friends, and caregivers, a birth that ends with a healthy mother and baby gazing into each other's eyes. For women in the Netherlands, such a birth is defined as one at home under the care of a midwife. In a country known for its liberal approach to drugs, prostitution, and euthanasia, government support for midwife-attended home birth is perhaps its most radical policy: every other modern nation regards birth as too risky to occur outside a hospital setting. In exploring the historical, social, and cultural customs responsible for the Dutch way of birth, Raymond De Vries opens a new page in the analysis of health care and explains why maternal care reform has proven so difficult in the U.S. He carefully documents the way culture shapes the organization of health care, showing how the unique maternity care system of the Netherlands is the result of Dutch ideas about home, the family, women, the body and pain, thriftiness, heroes, and solidarity. A Pleasing Birth breaks new ground and closes gaps in our knowledge of the social and cultural foundations of health care. Offering a view into the Dutch notion of maternity care, De Vries also offers a chance of imagining how Dutch practices can reform health care in the U.S. not just for mothers and babies, but for all Americans.