Published in 2014
Anne Hanley, ‘“Scientific truth into homely language”: The training and practice of midwives in ophthalmia neonatorum, 1895-1914’, Social History of Medicine (2014): 199-220.
Ophthalmia neonatorum, a form of neonatal conjunctivitis, was seen to be a serious problem in England at the turn of the twentieth century. Midwives were directly implicated in its prevalence with debate ensuing over the extent to which they should be taught about ophthalmia neonatorum and the extent to which they should participate in the diagnostic and therapeutic process. The involvement of midwives in cases of ophthalmia neonatorum has received little attention from historians. Yet it constitutes an important case study for the limitations in theoretical knowledge available to midwives, and for the professional and disciplinary boundaries imposed upon midwifery practice following the passing of the Midwives Act in 1902 and the establishment of the Central Midwives Board. This article addresses the training of midwives in ophthalmia neonatorum and the ways in which midwives were able to utilise such training in their professional practice.