Terri Coates’ review of Annelisa Christensen’s historical novel, The Popish midwife, is now available. It is based on the life of the 17th-century Roman Catholic midwife Elizabeth Cellier.
The author’s blog discusses her inspiration for writing the book: The Popish midwife (why I wrote her story).
We are looking forward to debating “creative non-fiction” and historical veracity at our forthcoming meeting in York.
De Partu history of childbirth event
May 26th-27th 2017:
Call for papers
‘I desire that all midwives may gain a good repute, and have a happy successe in all their undertakings: and that their knowledge, charity, and patience, with tender compassion, may manifest their worths among their women, and give their women just cause to love, honour, and to esteem them.’
Percivall Willughby (1596-1685)
Willughby, P., & Blenkinsop, H. (1863). Observations in Midwifery, as also the Country Midwifes Opusculum or Vade Mecum … Edited from the original MS. by Henry Blenkinsop. Warwick: H. T. Cooke & Son, p. 12 (full text available online)
It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of Dr Jean Donnison on January 27th, after a long period of declining health during which she bravely continued to work and publish. Jean will be known to many members for the significant contributions that she made to midwifery history, in particular her classic work Midwives and medical men: a history of the struggle for the control of childbirth, first published in 1977, which is still highly cited. Jean wrote a small feature for De Partu, The office of midwife – some historical background.
Readers are invited to add their own tributes to Jean via the comments function. They are also invited to make a donation in her memory to Maternity Worldwide via JustGiving. Maternity Worldwide is a charity saving lives in childbirth by training midwives, providing community maternal health promotion and improving access to health.
Read here the full version of Professor Michael Swanton’s article:
Professor Swanton is Emeritus Professor of Medieval Studies at the University of Exeter.
Janette Allotey, Stephen McGann and Clare Lewins at John Rylands Library, Deansgate, Manchester
This programme, which includes clips from Call the Midwife, looks at some of the real stories and characters, and goes behind the scenes to look at the ‘mechanics’ of birth with Terri Coates.
Handpainted Christmas card to Cicely Williams from a fellow prisoner whilst in Changi Jail, 1944.
Changing practices over the twentieth century
The study day to be held in Oxford on 7th May is part of a Knowledge Exchange Partnership, from April 2015-December 2016, conducted by The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities, the De Partu History of Childbirth Group, and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
Hardly a week goes by without a story or advice about pregnancy or birth making headline news. The Partnership sets this public fascination in a broad historical context, featuring debates and controversies from early printed midwifery texts to the present day. It aims to widen awareness of the heritage collections of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and of the Royal College of Midwives; and to facilitate dialogue between academic researchers and healthcare practitioners. Our study day on 7th May 2016, held in Oxford, focuses on the twentieth-century birth experience, encompassing antenatal preparation for family life, Leboyer’s theories of gentle birth, and developments in postnatal care in the twentieth century. We shall also have presentations on the RCM’s oral history collection and from the midwifery adviser to ‘Call the Midwife’.
Programme : Study Day on Saturday 7th May, at The Oxford Reseach Centre in the Humanities:
10.15 Registration and coffee
10.30 Welcome (Valerie Worth-Stylianou and Janette Allotey), and presentation on ‘Revisiting The Midwife’s Tale: an oral history collection at the Royal College of Midwives’ by Carly Randall, (Archivist, RCOG)
11.00 Guest speaker: Dr Marie-France Morel (Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris): ‘Gentle birth: Leboyer’s theories and subsequent changes to how babies were birthed in France in the 1970s’
12.00 Seminar A: Professor Mary Nolan (University of Worcester) ‘Birth and Parent Education post Dr Spock, 1970-2016: striving to build parents’ confidence rather than destroy it’
12.00 Seminar B: Professor Debra Bick (King’s College London): ‘’Context, culture and contribution of postnatal care over the last century: a missed opportunity for women’s health’
1.40 Seminars A and B repeated ( to allow all delegates to attend each seminar)
2.40 Tea and coffee
3.00 An update on De Partu (Janette Allotey)
3.15 Terri Coates (midwifery adviser for ‘Call the Midwife’): ‘Call the midwife: communicating the art of midwifery though a BBC period drama’
4.15 Concluding remarks and end of study day
Lead contacts for the Partnership:
Valerie Worth-Stylianou, Senior Tutor Trinity College, University of Oxford, and Mellon-TORCH Knowledge Exchange Fellow
Janette Allotey, Chair of De Partu, Honorary Lecturer, School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, University of Manchester
BOOKING FORM FOR SEMINAR ON 7TH MAY 2016
To book for the seminar (limited to 60 places), please complete this form and scan or email it (as an attachment) to firstname.lastname@example.org. When your booking is accepted, you will be asked to send payment for £20 (to cover all refreshments, including lunch). There is a reduced price of £10 for graduate students / student midwives or doctors.
I am (select one or more)
a student / academic researcher / archivist / midwife / obstetrician / other practitioner / layperson
Name of institution (if applicable) ……………………………………………………..
How did you learn about this seminar (e.g. which website, research group)?
Do you have any dietary requirements for lunch (e.g. vegetarian, gluten-free)?
Please click on the image thumbnails below for details of a forthcoming event:
Celebrating 500 years of Pregnancy and Birth:
This is being organised by Professor Valerie Worth (Trinity College, Oxford) in collaboration with the RCOG and De Partu. Attendees may also be interested in attending a De Partu meeting on September 3rd 2015, where there will be an opportunity for members to present papers on work in progress; further details to follow shortly.
In this centenary year of the Midwives (Scotland) Act 1915, this exhibition takes a look at the fascinating history of midwifery. Works by William Hunter and the man-midwife William Smellie will be on display.
Crush Hall and the Library Reading Room of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow are open to visitors on Monday afternoons from 2.00 p.m. until 5.00 p.m.
Visit the library blog for more information about the exhibitions.
The death has been announced today of Sheila Kitzinger, at the age of 86.
Sheila Kitzinger made a significant contribution to the understanding of birth in its social context from a feminist perspective, and was a catalyst for improvements in maternity services from the 1960s onwards.
She was a prolific author, and became a legend in her own lifetime. Despite her widening fame she was generous with her time, always willing to provide support and help to women and midwives.
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