Instruments or hands? ‘Nature’ and the practice of obstetric surgeons in early eighteenth-century Germany

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 week, Gabrielle Robilliard writes about 18th-century midwifery in Germany and the clash between male and female practitioners. 

If you wanted to edify yourself in 1790s Germany on the history of midwifery, you might have consulted J. G. Krünitz’s Oekonomische Encyklopädie (published 1773–1858), the most comprehensive German-language encyclopaedia of its time, which would have told you that:

For around 100 years in various countries in Europe, but largely in France, England and Holland, and now in many places in Germany, one has greatly improved the art of midwifery, and had few qualms about allowing several men well trained in that art to practise it rather than common midwives: indeed, in many large cities one has appointed several [men] skilled and experienced in this art … especially to provide advice and assistance to pregnant and parturient women and, in emergencies, to provide a helping hand.[1]

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Men at the door

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. Our latest post, which explores the role of men at the Hotel-Dieu in Paris, is contributed by Professor Susan Broomhall.

Men at the door: Education delivery and educational deliveries at the Hôtel-Dieu de Paris

The Hotel-Dieu in Paris is cited by many of the early modern authors of obstetrical work as the place where they had their training. This facility, not quite a hospital in the modern sense, had offered support for the poor, sick and needy, whether Parisian or passer-by, since its establishment in the seventh century. It contained both male and female religious personnel but its primary health care was provided by nuns. These women managed triage procedures, ran a pharmacy, offered bedside assistance, provided a childbirthing suite, raised orphan or abandoned children, and organised hygiene and laundering services on an industrial scale.[1]

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The Midwife of St. Giles Cripplegate

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. Today’s post is contributed by Sarah Fox an AHRC funded student in her third year of postgraduate study at the University of Manchester.

“The Tryal of a Midwife of St. Giles Cripplegate”: the fate of infertile midwives in eighteenth-century London

Many of you will have read Dr Jennifer Evans’ excellent blog post on the ‘Mistaken Midwife’ last month. Her post focused on a ballad of the same title dated 1674 in which a midwife pretended to be pregnant in order to both please her husband and preserve her business. As Jennifer discussed, experience was considered a vital part of midwifery training and, throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries female midwives were expected to have children of their own. Under the circumstances, one would be forgiven for thinking that the midwife of the ballad was an allegorical figure except, that is, for an almost identical case heard at the Old Bailey on the 1st June 1677[1].

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Women, Power, and Reproductive Healthcare Exhibition, Oregon, USA, Sept-Dec 2014

Women, Power and Reproductive Health

What? Women, Power, and Reproductive Healthcare Exhibition: Highlights from 19th and 20th Century Obstetrical and Gynecological Practice.

When? September – December 2014

Where? Main Library, third floor of BICC Building, Oregon Health and Science University’s Marquam Hill campus. (Directions here), .

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Midwifery Knowledge in Late 18th and Early 19th Century Germany

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.

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