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. This month, Frances Norman, a final year undergraduate student at the University of Hertfordshire, shares some insights into pre-marital sexual behaviour and pregnancy in the Atlantic world.
In July 1791 Sally Peirce ‘Swore a Child’ on Jonathon Ballard, the son of Martha Ballard, an eighteenth-century New England midwife who recorded her life across almost 10,000 diary entries.  Sally’s child was born in October of the same year and she and Jonathon married in January 1792. The eighteenth-century was a transitional period for sexual control across America and within New England, which was more sexually restrictive than urban areas of the country.  Sally’s pregnancy offers insight into premarital sexual relationships, as well as the role of community and familial control in courtship, pre-marital relationships, and the wider policing of sexuality.
On 25th May 2020 the murder of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black American man, by police officer Derek Chauvin, sent social media into an uproar that reignited the Black Lives Matter Movement. The use of the global hashtag ‘#BLM’ was everywhere: through television, newspaper and social media news headlines. A week later, on Tuesday 2nd June there was a viral ‘blackout’ on Instagram, where ’28 million users posted a plain black square along with the hashtag #blackouttuesday’ to support the black community.1
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. This month Clodagh Tait shares a quirky story about mistaken pregnancy and fanny farts (queefs!) in c17th Ireland.
Mary Gage, an Englishwoman who arrived in Ireland with her brother at around the time of the Ulster Plantation, had several misfortunes in the years prior to 1620. Her husband, John Rowley of Castleroe, near Coleraine, Co Derry, died in 1618, and she had lost one of her four children in infancy. In early 1620 she remarried, to Sir George Trevelyan, a former soldier from a Somerset gentry family who had been in Ireland about twenty years. George became ill that July, and on 13 September he died at Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim. Five days later George’s uncle and patron, Sir Arthur Chichester, Lord Deputy of Ireland, wrote to John Trevelyan about his brother’s edifying death. ‘He died a good Christian and in perfect memory to his last gasp, for which God be praised!’ This, Chichester continued, with ‘his lady’s being with child…is all the comfort he hath left behind him’.
By the Sexualidad en tu propia voz explores the changes that happened within the Mexican context to concepts imported from Europe of motherhood, childbirth, and sex. Challenging how men have come to dominate knowledge on childbirth.
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 medieval to the modern. This weeks post on the assistance during birth of handywomen in Ireland comes to us from Cara Delay, Interim Director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at the College of Charleston.
On duty in the west of Ireland, one of Lady Dudley’s nurses reported her experiences with a maternity case in 1910. She wrote:
Had just gone to another case when this patient sent for me. Then they went for [the] handy woman, who is a great scold. Doctor also had to be sent for, and he would not have me go whilst this woman was there. Afterwards I was called. The house is an old stable. There is no bed in the house, just a table, one chair and one stool; they are very poor. Patient was lying in the corner in a frightful condition. I got assistance and had her removed and made her comfortable.
Revealing the practical difficulties involved in early twentieth-century Irish nursing—rural travel and poverty among them—this report also points to the tensions that developed between nurse-midwives, doctors, and traditional ‘handywomen’ during a time of transforming health care ideals and realities.
The Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung comments on what it considers an excessive amount of doctors visits during pregnancy. It reflects the concern that such a trend will change the perception of pregnancy from something natural and physiological to something of a problem or disease.
This is part of a series of articles published by Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung on the ongoing discussions around the rise in caesarean sections in Germany; highlighting the dominant belief in several sections of society that natural birth is always best and should actively encouraged.
Submitted by Marystella Ramirez Guerra, PhD candidate, Germany.
Key words: popular medicine, childbirth, German midwives
During the late Eighteength and early Nineteenth Century there was an increase in publications that claimed to provide medical information and advice to the general reading public in most German speaking lands (here understood as all territories in current Germany and Austria, though for the project itself, the focus will be much more geographically reduced). These were the result of a state-guided movement to improve the population’s overall health as an asset for the strengthening of state.