There are several short illustrated historical features relating to birth, imaging the fetus and contraception on the Wellcome Collection website. Today’s new feature called Testimonies of Birth is about birth in the 1980s.
Please contact the Book Reviews Editor if you would like to volunteer to review this new book for De Partu
The sixth book review of 2020, is of an historical novel, The Gossip’s Choice by Sara Read.
In the current issue of the Journal of Medical Ethics, Dunja Begovi, Elizabeth Chloe Romanis and Alexandra Mullock suggest in an open access article ‘Reviewing the womb‘ that women’s reproductive freedom is under threat in many ways as the uterus becomes more accessible and amenable to medical management. It discusses some of the associated ethical and legal dangers which have emerged from developments in reproductive technology, and reflects on the historical notions of woman as the (sometimes incompetent) vessel for the nurturing of the male seed, where the focus lies on the fruit of the womb, on the fetus rather than the mother.
For a limited period only, just register to use the archives. The process takes less than five minutes.
Whether or not you have read The Imposteress Rabbit Breeder, reviewed for De Partu by Dr Ashleigh Blackwood, you may enjoy listening to an interview with the author, Professor Karen Harvey, who asks why on earth would a woman wish to pretend to give birth to rabbits…how could it be true …and why would contemporary medical men appear to believe this and investigate it?
The interview is from an ‘History Extra’ podcast for BBC History Magazine.
The following new publications will soon be available for review:
— The Myth of the Perfect Pregnancy: A History of Miscarriage in America by Lara Freidenfelds (Oxford University Press, 2020)
— Midwifery from the Tudors to the Twenty-First Century: History, Politics and Safe Practice in England, by Julia Allison (Routledge, 2020)
NB the latter is in PDF format only; publishers are no longer posting out review copies owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
Please contact the Book Review Editor, Dr Alison Nuttall (email@example.com) if you are interested in reviewing either of these titles.
We are very sorry indeed, but in view of the very sensible concerns of a number of delegates and the rapidly evolving public health warnings about the coronavirus, we have this morning taken the decision to postpone our study day at the Foundling Museum in London scheduled for Saturday March 14th. We’re aware that our delegates include quite a number of people who have care responsibilities for the more vulnerable, and we wish to avoid exposing them to any additional risk at this time. We hope you will understand this decision – which we’ve taken with much regret – in these exceptional circumstances. We are currently firming up with the Foundling Museum an alternative Saturday date – on this same theme and in a similar format (with their summer exhibition to visit) – a little later in 2020, hoping the coronavirus outbreak will then be safely behind us.
Valerie and Janette
Valerie Worth (Mellon-TORCH KE Fellow, Oxford University)
Janette Allotey (Chair of de Partu)
Hearn, Karen (2020) Portraying Pregnancy: from Holbein to Social Media
We are seeking from among our membership a reviewer for this book, which is being published in conjunction with an exhibition of the same name at the Foundling Museum in London. The review will be published on the websites both of De Partu and of the British Society for the History of Medicine. Please email Alison Nuttall if you are interested: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hearn, Karen (2020). Portraying Pregnancy: from Holbein to Social Media
London: Paul Holberton Publishing
Paperback, 242 x 168 mm
144 pages, 60 illustrations
‘This collection comprises primarily personal papers originally deposited at the Royal College of Midwives, now held at the RCOG. It includes case registers, pupil case books, notebooks, diaries, photographs and printed material, relating to the experiences of midwives and how childbirth has changed throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.’
A very useful table of contents is available via the JISC Archives Hub.
A collection of useful links is available in the members area of our website including links to archives, libraries and museums and items related to historiography…
In 1982 Chloe Fisher, who has dedicated much of her life to educating midwives and women on infant feeding and to supporting breast feeding mothers, published a historical review of modern breastfeeding ‘management’ and the origins of certain restrictive practices which prevailed for a considerable time during the twentieth century. While contemporary medical experts were advocating limiting the duration of initial breast feeds and no night feeds, at the end of this paper Chloe highlights the words of those who challenged such notions but whose work had hitherto been largely unrecognised. The following is a quotation from the concluding paragraphs of her paper:
‘Early in this decade [the 1950s] two well designed research projects (Illingworth and Stone, 1952: Newton, 1952) came to the conclusion that removing the restrictions would aid the establishment of lactation and reduce the incidence of problems. Other work led the author of a comprehensive history of infant feeding to say, of self-demand feeding,“When this regime becomes universally adopted, as surely it will, so the last chapter on the history of infant feeding will be concluded” (Wickes, 1953). That was in 1953!
In the developed world, slavish adherence to the earlier theories probably did as much harm to human lactation as the promotion of artificial feeds. But that we should have been guilty of taking these ideas to the developing countries, where artificial feeding can cause gross malnutrition, if not death, should make us pause for serious thought. How did it take another 20 years for the hoped-for improvements to begin to occur here? There is no simple answer, but a large contribution to the delay must have come from the rapid increase in hospital confinements, as it was in hospitals that these practices were firmly established. The rapid and happy changes that are now taking place owe much to the insistence of the many mothers who wish to breastfeed their babies. For the few professionals who are deeply concerned to increase breastfeeding, both for the sake of the mothers and their babies, exciting and rewarding times lie ahead.’
The UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative World Breast Feeding Week (August 1st–7th 2018) ended recently. In the UK, the week was preceded by a sensational Channel 4 film in the Dispatches series, ‘Breast feeding uncovered’, which explored the experience of breast feeding mothers today through the eyes of a breast feeding investigative journalist. It would appear that, while many women are now motivated to breast feed, society’s attitude towards feeding in public and the recognition of its benefits to babies and families and ultimately to society, could be better.
J C Allotey 09/08/18
Fisher, C. (1982). Mythology in midwifery – or “making breastfeeding scientific and exact”. Oxford Medical School Gazette, Trinity Term, 30-33.
Illingworth, R.S., and D.G.H. Stone (1952). Self demand feeding in a maternity unit. Lancet, 1, 683.
Newton, N. (1952). Nipple pain and nipple damage. Journal of Pediatrics, 41, 411
Wickes, I.G. (1953). A history of infant feeding. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 128, 151
Catherine M Morrison (2017)
Hebridean heroines: twentieth-century Queen’s Nurses (1940s-1970s)
(reviewed by Dr Alison Nuttall), and
Jennifer Evans and Sara Read (2017)
Maladies and medicine: exploring health and healing 1540-1740
(reviewed by Carole McGlone).
Wouldn’t it be timely to compile a gallery of as many former midwifery ‘training’ school badges as possible, before they are lost? Former schools of midwifery often produced their own badges, sometimes with interesting coats of arms or mottos on them. We have made a start with this: members can view them in our image library. Has this tradition of awarding badges been continued by contemporary higher education institutions? …
York Minster Nave: Nativity boss (1840)
York Minster was built between 1220 and 1472 and is one of the great Gothic cathedrals of England and Europe. In the course of the last two centuries, it has suffered three catastrophic fires with the second, in 1840, destroying the roof of the nave.
The nave roof is decorated with a series of eight bosses that depict the life of the Virgin Mary, a figure of great devotion in Catholic Christendom during the medieval period. The second of the bosses depicts the nativity, the birth of Christ in a stable in Bethlehem. The original boss showed a magnificent ox and ass, a shepherd, angels, the manger and, at the centre, the seated figure of the Virgin with her eyes raised to heaven, breastfeeding the infant Jesus.
In 1834, a local artist, John Browne, made detailed sketches of the nave bosses during maintenance work in the Minster. These sketches were the primary source for the huge restoration that took place following the 1840 fire. All the bosses were restored exactly as Browne had depicted them, except for the nativity boss. Apparently, in response to Victorian preferences for extreme modesty in social settings and church adornments, the restored boss depicted the Virgin bottle-feeding her baby, rather than breastfeeding!
Kindly contributed by Professor Mary Nolan, who is also an official York Minster guide.