Celebrating 500 years of Pregnancy and Birth

Please click on the image thumbnails below for details of a forthcoming event:

Celebrating 500 years of Pregnancy and Birth:

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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.

Information and booking form – PDF version

Dr Louisa Owsley, midwife and homoeopath (Texas, late 19th century)

 Dr Louisa Owsley Dr Louisa Owsley – the first female homoeopath doctor of Denton County in Texas. She practised homoeopathic medicine and was a skilled midwife, delivering over 4,000 babies in her 34-year career. She was still working at age 75 when, one night in a bad storm, probably on her way to a delivery, her horse and cart were swept off a bridge, and she drowned.

More about Louisa Owsley

Retelling familiar tales of pregnancy and birth: Oxford 3rd-4th July 2012

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)

Day 1:

11-12.15

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’

 12.15 lunch

 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’

 15.30 teabreak

 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”

 Day 2:

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’

 11.15 coffee

 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

 12.30 lunch

 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

15.15 tea

 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

 Practical details

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!

2) Accommodation

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/

3) Registration:

To register for the conference, please book completing the booking form and emailing it back to valerie.worth@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk 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.

De Partu at ICM 2011

De Partu at ICM 2011
De Partu at ICM 2011

Dr Tania McIntosh, Secretary of De Partu (centre) with Professor Billie Hunter, member of De Partu Steering Group (right) and Dr Jayne Marshall, first member of De Partu, in front of poster at the ICM in Durban, South Africa, 19-23 June 2011

The history of midwifery was well represented at the conference with not only the poster advertising our work, but an oral history workshop run by Billie and Tania, and a paper given by Tania on the history of English district midwifery.  The workshop was over-subscribed, and generated a real buzz about the possibilities of history.  Several people talked of using oral history, as well as written sources, to explore the history of indigenous and traditional midwives.

“They gave us hope again”: Dachau concentration camp memorial site

On the 29th of April, which is the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Dachau Concentration Camp, the exhibition “They gave us hope again” was opened at the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site. The exhibition is dedicated to an historical aspect of the Dachau Concentration Camp which has received only little consideration hitherto: the fate of female prisoners, among whom there were also pregnant women. Between December 1944 and February 1945, seven Jewish women brought children into the world amidst the terror at Kaufering I, a satellite camp of the Dachau Concentration Camp – all of them survived.

While pregnancies were not uncommon in concentration camps, women and their children were usually murdered. In order to clarify the exceptionality of these seven mothers surviving in the murderous concentration camp system, the exhibition implements the stories of the persecution of these women in historical context.

The biographies of the women are presented in seven parts: life before deportation, arrival and imprisonment at the concentration camps Auschwitz and Plaszów, transfer to the Dachau satellite camps, their experiences as female prisoners, the discovery and handling of their pregnancy and the births of their children at Kaufering I, the conduct of the SS, the evacuation of the camp and their liberation in Dachau as well as their lives after the Holocaust. All seven women were from Hungary or from regions annexed by Hungary and were already pregnant at the time of their deportation. They survived the selection process at Auschwitz and other concentration camps until arriving at the Dachau satellite camp Kaufering I in early December 1944, after discovering the pregnancy. They brought their children into the world there under catastrophic conditions.

After giving birth, the mothers Eva Fleischmannovà, Sara Grün, Ibolya Kovács, Elisabeth Legmann, Dora Löwy, Magda Schwartz and Miriam Rosenthal formed a so-called Schwangerenkommando (pregnant unit) and were forced to work in the prisoners’ laundry. As late as 13 March 1945, the head SS camp physician at the Dachau Concentration Camp issued an order for the mothers to be transferred to the Bergen-Belsen death camp. The order, however, was not carried out.

The exhibition can be visited from 30th April 2010 to 31st May 2011.

Guided tours for groups through the exhibition can be requested under: bildung@kz-gedenkstaette-dachau.de

Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site
Alte Römerstraße 75
85221 Dachau

Report of the De Partu and United Kingdom Centre for the History of Nursing and Midwifery (UKCHNM) first history of childbirth colloquium held on 23rd June 2010

The De Partu History of childbirth research group aims to provide a supportive network for active researchers working on research projects concerned with the history of childbirth and human reproduction or the history of midwifery.

The most recent event, a history colloquium, was held in June 2010. A report follows by Julia Allison, freelance historian and PhD student, University of Manchester and Janette Allotey:

On a gloriously sunny day, a diverse group of academics, researchers and practising midwives gathered in the Kanaris Lecture Theatre at Manchester Museum for the inaugural De Partu annual history of childbirth research colloquium.  

A lively morning programme included presentations on a variety of topics including menstruation and how it was accounted for in early modern England (Sara Read), childbirth and midwives in rural Elizabethan East Anglia (Julia Allison), the use of the vectis in midwifery practice (Louise Jenkins), and eighteenth-century midwifery education in the Free Hanseatic City and Lübeck, presented by our German guest Christine Loytved, from the University of Osnabrück. 

Following a delicious lunch and an opportunity to network, Samuel Alberti from the Centre for Museology, Manchester Museum, presented a short account of the history of the museum, its design and its collections. Resuming the midwifery theme, Helen Bryers gave a paper on the development of maternity services in the Gàidhealthachd (Highlands and Islands of Scotland) 1912 – 1967. Finally, a thought-provoking paper was given by Helen King in which a recent sensationalist claim that the eighteenth-century men midwives William Harvey and William Smellie were murderers was skilfully deconstructed. This led to a lively debate, raising issues about the nature of ‘expert authority’, the conduct of historical research in the age of the internet and peer review processes. 

This new academic forum offered attendees from a wide variety of different disciplines an ideal opportunity to network and to share their wide and rich range of expertise in the field. These events, which will take place on an annual basis, aim to enrich future work by fostering informal support and peer review, interdisciplinary learning and collaboration.