Desperate measures: an exploration of 18th- and 19th-century obstetric devices from the Manchester Medical Collection
Around 1900, few pregnant women in Western Europe or North America had any contact with a medical practitioner before going into labour. By the end the twentieth century, the hospitalisation of childbirth, the legalisation of abortion and a host of biomedical technologies from the Pill and IVF to obstetric ultrasound and prenatal diagnosis had dramatically extended the reach of science and medicine into human reproduction. A special issue of Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences published this month reflects on the social, medical and technological shifts that have shaped the experience and management of pregnancy since the turn of the twentieth century. Originating in a workshop held in Cambridge in 2012 supported by the Wellcome Trust-funded ‘Generation to Reproduction’ project, the special issue is edited by Dr Salim Al-Gailani (University of Cambridge) and Dr Angela Davis (University of Warwick).
The “mother of family planning in the UK” Dr Helena Wright talks to Sue MacGregor in 1980 about the early days of the Family Planning Association which formed in 1930.
NB this podcast is available for 27 days only – from 17/09/14
A scanned PDF copy of the Midwives Act 1936 can now be downloaded from the Resources page
18th-19th September 2014, University of Leeds
This two-day conference, organised by the School of History’s Health, Medicine and Society research group, brings together those interested in the history of birth, fertility, sexuality, demography and family life, from the medieval period to the present day, and in cultures across the world. The conference aims to situate birth in the contexts of family and society, evaluate the attitudes of individuals, groups and governments to birth, explore the impact of birth, and assess changes and continuities in the experience of birth.
The conference programme includes a public lecture by Professor Simon Szreter, a keynote lecture by Professor Kate Fisher, a roundtable on the politics of procreation, and a handling session with objects from Thackray Medical Museum.
The cost to attend the conference is £25 (full)/£15 (students, unwaged, 1 day attendance).
At 5pm on Thursday 18th September, we will be hosting a free public lecture by Professor Simon Szreter (University of Cambridge), in association with the History and Policy Parenting Forum. The lecture is entitled ‘Births and the collective provision of welfare – the long view c.1550-2014’, and is followed by a reception. All are welcome, and no registration is necessary.
Laura King and Alex Bamji
Health, Medicine and Society research group
School of History
University of Leeds
Michael Sadler Building
The next De Partu History of Childbirth event, to include a members’ meeting and the presentation of papers, will be held at the historic Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester on 14th October 2014.
More details of the programme, which includes lunch, a short guided tour of the school and a musical interlude, will follow soon.
This new book may be of interest:
Pregnancy and birth in early modern France: treatises by caring physicians and surgeons (1581-1625). François Rousset, Jean Liebault, Jacques Guillemeau, Jacques Duval, and Louis de Serres. Edited and translated by Valerie Worth-Stylianou (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013), ISBN Softcover 978-0-7727-2138-9; Electronic 978-0-7727-2139-6. (The electronic edition is available to institutions only.)
The flyer (hyperlinked) will allow you to purchase the book from the University of Toronto Press on its website with an early bird 20% discount should any of you be interested in ordering it for your university libraries.
School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work
University of Manchester
The De Partu site is currently undergoing maintenance. You will notice the new background image (from Muscio, courtesy of the Wellcome Library) and new member login with the logo above. I am pleased to report that I have now identified a solution to the member login issue. The new login box (to be found at the top right-hand corner of each page) will work with the existing member logins, and includes a password reminder facility. Access to the links, archive of blog posts and tag cloud is now restricted to members. Please keep a look out in the coming weeks for additional content, including new images and the full text of the 1936 Midwives Act to accompany those of 1902 and 1918.
Catherine Ebenezer, web editor
Full copies of the Midwives Acts of 1902 and 1918 have now been uploaded to the Resources page.
Medical Humanities Sheffield is proud to launch a series of open interdisciplinary lectures, for students, staff and the public.
WEDNESDAY 26 February – 6 p.m. Firth Hall
Professor Jennifer Richards
Reading and Talking about The Woman’s Book in Renaissance England
“Most written knowledge about women’s bodies” in late medieval Europe, argues Monica H. Green, “is to be found in texts composed by male physicians and surgeons, for male physicians and surgeons (or if not for them, then for lay male patrons).” This paper sets out to test this claim, exploring the reception of one popular vernacular book, Thomas Raynalde’s The Birth of Mankind; otherwise named The Womans Booke (1545-1652). There is evidence of male readers annotating their copies of this book. One annotated copy (1565) belonged to the court physician William Ward, and the marginal notes he left behind are revealing: ‘This book in any case is not to be lent [to] anye body’. However, there is also evidence that this book was in fact lent quite widely, including to and by women. This paper will explore this evidence, and try to reconstruct this book’s reading and the discussion of it, not all of which was complimentary…. It will consider what this means for the early history of women’s healthcare and female literacy.
Jennifer Richards is Professor of Early Modern Literature and Culture in the School of English Literature at Newcastle University. She has published books on rhetoric and conversation with Cambridge University Press (2003) and Routledge (2007), and many essays including on the reading of vernacular medical books in the early modern period with Journal of the History of Ideas (2012) and Bulletin of the History of Medicine (forthcoming, 2014). She is currently writing a book on shared reading in early modern England with a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship, and, with Professor Richard Wistreich, Royal Northern College of Music, she is leading the AHRC Network ‘Voices and Books, 1500-1800′. She is an Associate Editor of the Edinburgh Companion to the Critical Medical Humanities.
Medical Humanities Sheffield
The interface between medicine and science on the one hand, and the arts and social sciences on the other hand, is one of the most exciting and important in modern academic life, offering unrivalled potential for multi-disciplinary work, policymaking, and public life. Medical Humanities Sheffield is sponsoring a series of open lectures in this exciting field.
No need to book ahead. Open to the Public.
Information related to this message is available at http://mhs.group.shef.ac.uk/.
Times have changed and it is now rare that a man does not attend the birth of his baby, but how did it come to pass and could things ever change back?
BBC News article 14/03/13. by Lucy Wallis
The clinic of the birth: obstetric ultrasound, medical innovation and the clinico-anatomical project
Department of History and Philosophy of Science University of Cambridge
*** The Ninth Cambridge Wellcome Lecture in the History of Medicine ***
Thursday 16 January 2014 at 4.30pm
The clinic of the birth: obstetric ultrasound, medical innovation and the clinico-anatomical project
Malcolm Nicolson (University of Glasgow)
Ultrasonic images of the fetus are now ubiquitous. Like many innovations in medical imaging, the origins of obstetric ultrasound are often located in medical physics and engineering rather than to clinical medicine. I will argue, by contrast, for the crucial role of clinical pathology in the invention of diagnostic ultrasound. Several authors, notably Foucault in The Birth of the Clinic, have described the impact on nineteenth-century medicine of systematic correlation between lesions revealed upon dissection and signs and symptoms observed while the patient was still alive. Laboratory medicine is widely presented as having eclipsed the clinico-anatomical project in the twentieth century. This lecture will show that clinical pathology continued to inspire innovation in medical imaging after 1950. It will also argue that ultrasonic scanning is more like traditional forms of physical examination than is usually assumed.
There will be tea before the lecture, at 4pm, and a drinks reception afterwards, at 6pm.
*** Workshop ***
In addition, at 11.30am the same day Professor Nicolson will lead a discussion of a precirculated paper on James Young Simpson, the practice of gynaecological examination, and the nineteenth-century medical gaze.
Historians of gynaecology and obstetrics enjoy relating tales of the eighteenth-century man-midwife fumbling blindly under bedclothes or petticoats. Such stories serve to mark a vivid contrast between an older, backward form of practice and a reformed gynaecology led by far-sighted men like James Young Simpson, Edinburgh Professor of Midwifery and pioneer of obstetric analgesia. It is assumed that Simpson, as a disinterested scientific clinician, would have had unrestricted access to the bodies of his patients. The removal of prudish hindrances signals how far gynaecology had emancipated itself from a benighted past. However, reading Simpson, it is evident that, in mid century, the practitioner’s ability to examine female patients remained constrained by social conventions. Thus, the extent to which Simpson’s practice represents a complete departure from older modes of gynaecological work has been exaggerated. By the 1850s, the medical gaze had gained only partial and conditional access to the female body.
Lecture and workshop are free and open to all.
More information: http://www.hps.cam.ac.uk/medicine/wellcomelecture2014.html
Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, Free School Lane, Cambridge CB2 3RH.
I am pleased to announce the following symposium:
Regards socio-historiques sur la santé comme problème public : don et transplantation d’organes, cancer, sida, dépendance au jeu et santé mentale [Historical and sociological perspectives on health as a public problem: organ donation, cancer, AIDS, gambling addiction and mental health].
This symposium will be held in French, on February 13th, 2014, at the University Institute of the History of Medicine and Public Health at Lausanne, Switzerland.
For any queries, please contact: email@example.com
University of Health Sciences (HESAV), Institute of Health Research, University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Wester Switzerland (HES-SO)
Raphaël HAMMER, Professeur HES-S2, Av. de Beaumont 21, 1011 Lausanne
t : +41 21 316 81 19
The 9th annual Interdisciplinary Workshop on Reproduction at Cambridge will be held on Friday Nov. 15th from 9.00 a.m. – 7.00 p.m. Registrations have unfortunately already closed, but the programme and Twitter coverage may be of interest.
Presentations this year range from oocyte preservation, to the emerging meanings of cells, to the role of motherhood. This year’s aim is to consider how reproduction is constructed and communicated within academic institutions and broader society.
Janette Allotey, Chair of De Partu, was interviewed by Helen Castor for the first programme in the series, which was broadcast on 9th October 2013. It will be available on BBC iPlayer to view or download until October 8th 2013.
De Partu Anuual Lecture May 31st 2013: Professor Valerie Worth, University of Oxford.
“Who was present at the birth? Interpreting written and visual sources from early modern France.”
By Helen King (firstname.lastname@example.org)
It was one of those moments that only happens when academics and practitioners are in the same room…
For about a year, I had been thinking about the history of visual representations of body parts, and had been introducing audiences in the UK and beyond to some of the knitting patterns available to make a womb. On knitty.com, for example, you can find a pattern from the amazing M.K. Carroll which allows anyone with needles and some bright pink wool to make a ‘cuddly’ womb with pipe-cleaner fallopian tubes and ovaries. If you think I’m making this up, look at http://www.knitty.com/ISSUEwinter04/PATTwomb.html
M.K. Carroll took classes in anatomy and physiology which informed her work. But as she points out on the website, her knitted womb is ‘not completely anatomically accurate’. I was interested in two things here. First, the effect of knitting on making body parts look less terrifying and more ‘cuddly’, which is part of a wider movement in contemporary art towards knitting things that one would not normally associate with this medium; for example, cars (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OX1E8nSD_YI). Second, the choice of what to include in ‘a womb’. In M.K. Carroll’s womb, tubes and ovaries and cervix are all important, and the cervix needs to ‘look plump (“pouty”, if you will)’.
I mentioned this to the other members of the De Partu network, expecting the usual surprised response. Instead, they were not thrown in the slightest. ‘Oh yes’, they said, ‘we all know about knitted wombs. We have them, and we make them. They are very useful in parentcraft classes. Would you like us to show you our wombs?’
My jaw dropped. And once I saw the wombs, I was even more amazed and delighted. Firstly, because these wombs are not always brightly coloured – in fact, one of the 1960s patterns that was kindly supplied to me by Lynn Balmforth, the librarian of the National Childbirth Trust, makes it explicit that these should be made in neutral, non-scary, colours, to make the effect more ‘acceptable’. Nor are they supposed to be ‘lifelike’. And secondly, because these wombs don’t bother with the ovaries and tubes – irrelevant by this stage of the proceedings! – but focus on the size of the gravid uterus and on the role of the cervix. They are used to show how contractions work and how the cervix dilates. A ball, representing the head, is pushed through the cervix and a ribbon through the external os can be used to control this.
This photograph was sent to me by Sue Tully, who is a Senior Lecturer in Midwifery at Bournemouth University; it gives you the general idea, although this one contravenes the 1960s guidelines on colour schemes! If you have any images of knitted wombs or information on how they were used, I’d love to receive it.
This gallery contains 2 photos.
Click on the thumbnail images to view details of this event:
Professor Helen King (Open University) 19 February 2013 at 18.00hrs.
‘Agnodice’s First Patient: Gendering Childbirth in Antiquity and Early Modern Europe’.
John Snow Celebration Event at the University of York
Friday 15th March 2013
I have been advised that today, February 1st, is St Bride’s day – the Celtic patron saint for midwives. The pagan goddess Brigit was associated with fertility, childbirth, and cattle. On her feast day – which is also the Gaelic spring festival of Imbolc – Highland girls made the ‘last sheaf’ of the previous harvest into images of her, which were laid in a decorated cradle called ‘Bride’s bed’. Her flower is the snowdrop…
In Ireland it is St Brigid’s day, where ‘the Bride of Kildare’ is said to have helped the Virgin give birth to Jesus and in so doing became known as the protector of pregnant women and midwives. She also cared for Mary’s cows, hence her other title, ‘Christ’s milkmaid’.
For general (non academic purposes ) interest…
Have a good day,
This may be of interest to some of the list subscribers…
Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2012 10:27:32 +0100
From: Salim Al-Gailani
Subject: Debating Reproduction at the Cambridge Festival of Ideas
Cambridge Festival of Ideas
Debating Reproduction: Hospital Birth
1st November 2012
5.30pm – 7pm
Mill Lane Lecture Room 9, 8 Mill Lane
University of Cambridge
Around 1900, very few babies in Britain were born in hospitals; by the end
of the century, hardly any were not. The Wellcome Trust funded ‘Generation
to Reproduction Project’ presents a debate on the history of medical and
social issues surrounding this ‘revolution’ in childbirth.
The subject of the debate will be:
‘The hospitalization of childbirth has historically benefited birthing
women less than their doctors.’
In order to focus on historical perspectives, the debate will be framed
around the causes of the transition to the hospital and what it has meant
for birthing women, midwives and doctors. We ask why the place of birth
became so controversial in the decades after World War Two and continues to
Our panel includes: Cathy Warwick (General Secretary, Royal College of
Midwives), Hilary Marland (Professor of History, University of Warwick),
Tania McIntosh (Lecturer in midwifery and history of midwifery, University
of Nottingham), Joanna Kavenna (Novelist, author of The Birth of Love,
Bookings are filling rapidly. There is no charge, but pre-booking is
To book, email: email@example.com
Dr Janette Allotey
University of Manchester
School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work,
tel +44(0)161 306 7732
Reception +44(0)161 306 7732
Janette C Allotey
Read more: Janette C Allotey
Campus map: www.manchester.ac.uk/visitors/travel/maps/numerical
Chair of De Partu: History of Childbirth Research Group
Nursing and midwifery in Britain since 1700, co-edited by Professors Billie Hunter and Anne Borsay, has just been published by Palgrave Macmillan.
It is a collection of essays that explore and compare the distinct histories of nursing and midwifery in Britain from the beginning of the eighteenth century to the modern day. The book is aimed at students and practitioners. There are chapters by De Partu members Alison Nuttall, Helen King and Christine Hallett, as well as by Pat D’Antonio, Winifred Connerton, Anne-Marie Rafferty and Jane Sandall. A snip at £19.99!
This conference brings together leading specialists from a range of the medical humanities to explore the trope of the retelling of stories about pregnancy and birth. Taking a very broad geographic and chronological focus, our objective is to encourage innovative interdisciplinary exchanges by addressing the following questions:
How did/do methods of diffusion (print culture, images, drama, ultrasound and modern medical technologies) encourage the retelling of familiar birthing tales, and how were/are new ones added?
Why did/do some stories of pregnancy and birth circulate more widely than others?
When stories are retold, which details of the original are always retained, which are lost in the retelling, and how and why do new accretions creep into the story?
Papers by some twenty researchers, from humanities, social sciences and health care, will be given over the two days, with generous time allowed for audience discussion and questions. We are grateful to the Wellcome Trust for a grant subsidising the conference.
Janette Allotey (Manchester), Helen King (Open University) Valerie Worth (Oxford)
Provisional programmeas (6/6/12)
Opening session: organisers’ introduction
Sharon Aviva Jones (Applied Drama, Goldsmith’s, London), ‘The Performance of Childbirth: Birth Stories and Rites of Passage in the UK today’
Lisa Hinton (Health Experiences Research Group, Oxford), ‘Healthtalkonline and stories of birth’
14.00 Birth in fiction
Véronique Duché (Languages and Literatures, Melbourne), ‘The birth of/in French fiction (16th Century)’
Charlotte Woodford (German, Cambridge), ‘Feminist re-tellings of pregnancy and birth experiences in fin de siècle Germany’
Giulia Zanini (Political and Social Sciences, Fiesole, Italy – PhD) ‘“The most beautiful thing that I remember about my childhood is the story of my birth”. Italian intended parents of donor-conceived children and the creation of family histories and fairy tales’
16.00 Telling tales under God
Rebecca Johnson (History, Princeton, US – PhD), ‘Dolores spatio quatuor dierum: Approaching Childbirth in Medieval Catalonia through a Miracle Attributed to Ramon de Peñafort’
Vina Vaswani (Director, Centre for Ethics, Yenepoya University, Mangalore, India), ‘Reinforcing values in the birth of a baby through mythological/folk tales’
17.00 Keynote, Monica Green (History, Arizona), “The Travels of Muscio: Making Medieval Obstetrics out of a Late Ancient Text”
9.30 The father’s tale
Holly Tucker (French and Italian/History of Medicine, Vanderbilt University, US), ‘Pregnant Men?: Stories of Atypical Reproduction in Early Europe’
Angela Davis and Laura King (History, Warwick), ‘Figure of Fun to Birthing Partner? Childbirth stories of and by fathers in post-war Britain’
11.30 Unusual births or mothers
Theresa Earenfight (History, Seattle), ‘Narratives of Regal Maternity in Late Medieval and Early Modern Spain’
12.00 Midwives’ responses
Round table discussion
14.00 Powerful stories
The eighth-month-child: Lesley Bolton (Classics, Calgary), ‘The eighth-month child: Recasting an old medics’ tale: transmission and transformation of theories on inauspicious periods of gestation’
The wandering womb: Alison Klairmont Lingo (History, University of California, Berkeley) and Stephanie O’Hara (French/Women’s and Gender Studies) University of Massachusetts Dartmouth), ‘Capturing the Wandering Womb in the Early Modern Era: Louise Bourgeois and The Compleat Midwifes Practice’
15.45 Tales from the experts
The gynaecologist: Ramona A. Braun (History and Philosophy of Science, Cambridge), ‘Against the timebomb: Laparoscopic treatment of the ‘disease’ of ectopic pregnancy in gynaecologists’ accounts of the 1950s’
The German ‘family midwife’: Jennifer Jaque-Rodney (International Delegate –
German Association of Midwives), ‘Family midwifery. Health promotion through bonding for mother and child’
The doula: Holly Hendry and Dr Salma Siddique (Life, Sport and Social Sciences, Edinburgh Napier) ‘Stories retold in the spaces between pregnancy and childbirth’
17.30 Midwives’ panel and general discussion
1) Dates and venue:
The conference will take place in Lady Margaret Hall, one of the colleges of Oxford University, on 3rd and 4th July 2012. Oxford is easily accessible by train or coach, and it is a 20-minute walk from the station to Lady Margaret Hall (or a short taxi ride). ). If you are arriving at Heathrow, there are regular buses to Oxford (Gloucester Green is the terminal you need in the city centre): see http://www.oxfordbus.co.uk/index.php. If you are arriving by car, we recommend you park in one of the city’s ‘park and ride’ car parks, as parking in the city centre is extremely limited!
The conference organisers are able to provide accommodation (in single rooms) for those giving papers at one of the north Oxford properties belonging to Trinity College. Other delegates might wish to use the website of rooms available at Oxford colleges to make their own accommodation bookings: http://www.oxfordrooms.co.uk/. Alternatively, information on hotels is available on Oxford city’s tourist website: http://www.oxfordcityguide.com/ee2/index.php?/TouristInfo/
To register for the conference, please book completing the booking form and emailing it back to firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday 8th June 2012. Please note that the number of delegates attending is limited, so early booking is advised.
Payment should be made either by cheque (made payable to Trinity College Oxford), drawn on a UK bank, or by debit or credit card (charges to be handled by Trinity College Oxford). Once bookings have closed, you will be sent an email asking you to pay the total due for all bookings by Monday 19th June.