Thoughts about the Future

Source: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images.

Source: Wellcome Library, London.
Wellcome Images.

The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the earliest times to the present day.

Given the success of last year’s conference, the blog and subsequent research network. Ciara and I have been thinking recently about where we want the network to go in the future. In particular we have been thinking about running a second Perceptions of Pregnancy conference. Recently we have seen a surge of blog posts and other online material all relating to the conference themes.

Some of this has been produced by network members – and in some cases is related to the publications coming out of the conference.

Joanne Bailey has recently been writing about the Foetus: from the sensory to the scan

As a physical state, the stages of pregnancy follow a fairly consistent form. Yet maternal perceptions of pregnancy can vary enormously across time and location. As Barbara Duden comments in Disembodying Women: Perspectives on pregnancy and the Unborn: ‘over time, woman and body do not remain the same’; we cannot feel the same as our distant counterparts because our bodies have no ‘empirical equivalent’ to theirs.

Sara Read and I have been podcasting with Reddit AskHistorians about Women’s reproductive health and medicine

But relevant research is also going on beyond the network, which suggests there is still scope to expand our activities. For example …

Ashleigh Blackwood has been blogging about Early Modern Maternity Ware

he development of maternity clothing is often considered to be a modern phenomenon by both the modern public and fashion industry. As Sandra Matthews explains, the public attention of this specific corner of the clothing market through photography and advertising trends in the 1950s which ‘[held their] roots in the social changes in the 1930s and ‘40s.’[1]Yet, the challenge of ‘dressing a bump’ is by no means a new one, and is certainly not specific to just the last 80 years. Women have always faced expanding waistlines and the necessity to accommodate their changing bodies within their personal fashion choices.

The Criminal Historian blog has featured a post about A Woman Who Ate her Baby

A woman gnawing her baby to death? Surely not. But then I searched a bit more, and realised that this was, sadly, only too true (although a few parts of the Preston Guardian‘s story are incorrect, or based on later events). It was a tale of poverty, and of a woman driven literally mad by the effects of childbirth. Mary Ann Dinah King, the woman in question, was a mother of three. She was born in December 1822 at Union Street in Lambeth, the daughter of Joseph Lyons, a hawker, and his wife Amelia.

Katelyn Dykstra Dykerman has been blogging about Eugenics and Intersex and the consequences of defining normal, over on the Notches blog.

On May 1, 2014, Dr Cary Gabriel Costello published a blog post entitled, “On Eugenic Abortion of the Intersex,” that discussed the contemporary choice for parents to terminate fetuses diagnosed with an intersex condition. His post provides a useful starting point for a discussion about the continued threat of eugenic science (or genetic science, under which eugenic practices have often been re-packaged) to queer folks, in particular those with intersex conditions.

Finally the Deviant Maternity blog, which explores illegitimacy, sex, marriage and medicine in early modern Wales, has featured a discussion of Breast Cancer and Poverty

In Breast Cancer in the Eighteenth Century (which I recently reviewed) Marjo Kaartinen notes that this disease was a great equaliser which afflicted rich and poor women alike. First-hand accounts of the experience of breast cancer are rare, and those that do exist are typically from more well-off women. Rarer still are reports which discuss the diagnosis and treatment of women from the lower ranks of early modern society, however I was fortunate enough uncover a brief but revealing case on a recent research trip to Powys Archives.

If there is anyone you know of who might be interested in joining us please do let us know. Likewise if you have something you want to blog about or know someone with something interesting to share please do use the perceptionsofpregnancy’ at ‘ address to share it with us. If you would be interested in attending a second PoP conference please let us know in the comments section.

Best Jennifer and Ciara


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