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). 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.

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.

Brighton born, Sussex bred: the story of Brighton’s maternity hospitals, 1830-2007, by Harry Gaston

Brighton born, Sussex bred: the story of Brighton's maternity homes

This book by Harry Gaston, a local historian, has recently been published. According to the blurb, “Brighton Born, Sussex Bred shows how maternity care has developed over the last 200 years in Brighton and Hove and nationally … Fully illustrated, the book includes the experiences of mothers and midwives from the 1950’s to 1980’s as they tell  their birth stories.”

The book is on sale via the Friends of Brighton and Hove Hospitals at £12.00 per copy including postage and packing: please order using this form.

Recently published: A social history of maternity and childbirth: key themes in maternity care, by Tania McIntosh

A Social History of Maternity and ChildbirthPublished 5th March 2012 by Routledge – 188 pages

This new work considers the significance of the regulation and training of midwives and doctors, exploring important aspects of maternity care including efforts to tackle maternal deaths, the move of birth from home to hospital, and the rise of consumer groups. Using oral histories and women’s memoirs, as well as local health records and contemporary reports and papers, this book explores the experiences of women and families, and includes the voices of women, midwives and doctors.

Key themes are discussed throughout, including:
•the work and status of the midwife
•the place of birth
•pain relief
•ante- and post-natal care
•women’s pressure groups
•high-tech versus low-tech
•political pressures.

At a time when the midwifery profession, and the wider structure of maternity care, is a matter for popular and political debate, this book is a timely contribution.

Tania McIntosh is the Secretary of De Partu.

Documentary ‘A Picture of Health’: BBC One 27th February 2012 9.15 a.m.

The next programme in the BBC One documentary series A Picture of Health, presented by Larry Lambis due to be broadcast on  Monday 27th February at 9.15 a.m. It discusses how the role of a father-to-be has changed. De Partu provided the film company with assistance and nominated several possible interviewees, including a member of our steering group, Julia Allison, who made such an impression on the producers that she was invited to be involved in a subsequent programme with Larry Lamb and Angela Rippon!!

Julia on location at Knaresborough

Julia on location at Knaresborough

From here to maternity: Lakeside explores the history of having babies

MODERN mothers-to-be in Nottinghamshire might debate the merits of a home birth versus a hospital delivery, but for their grandmothers or great-grandmothers, the choice simply didn’t exist.

A new exhibition, Mothers And Midwives: A History Of Maternity in the East Midlands, at Lakeside Arts Centre, looks at the reasons for this dramatic change, and the impact it has had on women, families, midwives and communities in the region.

The FREE exhibition runs from 13 January to 15 April with lunchtime talks in January, February and March to amplify themes explored in the display.

The experience of having a baby has changed dramatically over the last hundred years. It has moved from a social and domestic occurrence, attended by a sole neighbourhood midwife, to a more medicalised one which predominantly occurs in hospital. Midwives still deliver about 70% of all babies born and are usually the only professional in attendance.

The exhibition explores the development through historical and contemporary sources, covering issues surrounding pregnancy, birth, and the early weeks of caring for an infant. There are historic midwifery records, photographs, and equipment relating to midwifery and baby care. Historic material from the Manuscripts and Special Collections at the University of Nottingham provides extracts from published sources as well as letters and diaries on the subject, and reveals illuminating archives of medical understanding and accepted practice from earlier times.

A series of talks throughout the exhibition will draw on the firsthand experiences of those who have delivered babies in a very different era, as well as offer insights from historical experts.

Shona Powell, director of Lakeside, said: ‘This fascinating exhibition traces the evolution of our experiences of giving birth in the 20th and 21st centuries. The customs and decisions around how we bring babies into the world is such a lively topic for debate in every generation. It’s so interesting to see how we’ve moved from putting this momentous event in the hands of someone familiar to us in our home, to a risk-averse attitude where we have the advantages and interventions of modern medicine – but it can become more depersonalised. I think younger visitors will be amazed at how much has changed in such a short space of time. The exhibition will be a must-see for parents and anyone with an interest in our local social history.’

Dr Tania McIntosh, a lecturer in midwifery at the University of Nottingham who has worked with Manuscripts and Special Collections to develop the exhibition, explained: ‘Pregnancy and birth are universal experiences and this exhibition taps into that by showcasing the many different types of evidence which can help to tell the story of birth through the ages.  It is also important to collect material relating to very domestic issues such as birth; they are as important to our understanding of society as wars or revolutions.  If you are inspired by the exhibition to search your cupboards or attics for family photos or papers about birth, or have your own story to tell, then we would be very interested in hearing from you.’

The lunchtime talks will be:

Infant Welfare

Wednesday January 18

Dr Denise Amos, researcher for the Nottinghamshire Heritage Gateway and co-curator of ‘Mothers and Midwives’ examines the patterns and causes for the significant number of infant deaths at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century in three East Midlands towns: Nottingham, Leicester and Derby.

From Home To Hospital

Wednesday February 15

Using contemporary records, pictures and interviews, Dr Tania McIntosh, principal curator of ‘Mothers And Midwives,’ explores the changing experience of birth in the 20th century and the reasons why it became a medical rather than domestic event.

Midwifery In the District

Wednesday March 14

Julia Allison, former district midwife in Nottingham, past-President of the Royal College of Midwives and author of ‘Delivered At Home’, a history of district midwifery in Nottingham, will talk about the development of district midwifery and the experience of having a baby ‘on the district’. 

Places for the talks are limited, so please book your tickets as soon as possible with the Box Office on 0115 8467777.

The exhibition runs from now until Sunday 15 April and is free to visit. It is open from 11 am-4 pm Monday to Friday, and 12 noon-4 pm Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays (but closed Easter Sunday). It is at the Weston Gallery, DH Lawrence Pavilion, University of Nottingham.

International Confederation of Midwives records now available

The cataloguing of the records of the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) is now completed and the catalogue is available online at the Wellcome Library, reference SA/ICM.

The ICM is at the forefront of international policy development to influence and promote midwifery at global and national levels, and to pro-actively support international strategies to improve maternal and child health, for the achievement of ‘Safe Motherhood’ for all women.

More on this story from the Wellcome Library blog …

THE FOETUS GOES PUBLIC: images of the unborn from the Middle Ages to the 21st century

The Centre for the History of Medicine and Disease is delighted to announce a forthcoming exhibition: 

An exhibition of the history of the public images of embryos and foetuses will take place in the Holliday Building at Durham University’s Queen’s Campus in Stockton-on-Tees from Friday 7th October until Friday 9th December. 

The Foetus Goes Public looks at how images of embryos and foetuses shape our understanding of life and reproduction.  This exhibition tells the fascinating story of how the foetus moved from obscure medieval manuscripts to become a public icon in the twentieth century that, today, is available to everyone at any time through the internet. 

Dr Lutz Sauerteig from the Centre for the History of Medicine and Disease will officially open the exhibition on 7th October at 1.30 pm. 

The exhibition is accompanied by a series of public lectures :

Prof John McLachlan (School of Medicine and Health), ‘Imagining the Embryo’ (21 October, 12.45pm, Holliday Building, Room A011).

Dr Nadja Reissland (Department of Psychology), ‘Fetal Crying: Is the Fetal Cry Face Gestalt Associated with Prenatal Depression and Attachment?’ (11 November, 10.00 am, Wolfson Research Institute, Room F009).

Dr Sebastian Pranghofer (CHMD and Department of Philosophy), ‘Personhood Before Birth? Early Modern Images of the Unborn’ (25 November, 12.45pm, Holliday Building, Room A015/016). 

Entry to the exhibition and the lectures is free. 

For more information, contact Rachel Simpson on telephone 0191 3340700, email: rachel.simpson@durham.ac.uk or visit http://www.dur.ac.uk/chmd/

Best wishes 

Rachel Simpson

Administrator/Outreach Officer
Centre for the History of Medicine and Disease
Wolfson Research Institute, Durham University
Queen’s Campus, University Boulevard
Stockton-on-Tees TS17 6BH
Tel: 0191 334 0700

Royal College of Midwives archives now searchable via the Archives Hub

A message from the Project Archivist at the RCOG , Clare Sexton:

The top-level descriptions of organisational records of the Royal College of Midwives are now searchable via the Archives Hub: http://archiveshub.ac.uk/.

This is the direct link to the overview to the collection –  https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/search/archives/c099b9b5-6451-3c4c-a67a-8e994f80d2e9 

Kind regards,

Clare Sexton
Project Archivist

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
27 Sussex Place
Regents Park
London
NW1 4RG

020 7772 6263

Good news – RCM archives accessible again after more than three years in storage

The RCM has now transferred its archives and library books to the RCOG library in Regent’s Park, London.

The archives have been catalogued, and anyone wishing to view the material is invited to contact the temporary archivist, Clare Sexton, at the RCOG.

The draft catalogue is now available to De Partu members via the Members’ area of the website.

Some of the De Partu steering group members were recently invited to the RCOG,  and enjoyed viewing some of the material. Clare is working on some resource guides to the collection that will soon appear on the RCOG website: http://www.rcog.org.uk/what-we-do/information-services/resource-information.

Some of the speakers: Professor Cathy Warwick, Dr Janette Allotey, Professor Helen King and Canon Julia Allison, with Claire Sexton (temporary archivist who has catalogued the RCM archives). Launch of the Royal College of Midwives archives at the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists library, Sussex Place, Regent's Park, London. November 4th 2011.

The collection is now completely accessible to RCM members. Others are welcome to view them in the reading room at the RCOG by prior arrangement. Clare can arrange for items to be retrieved in advance of your visit.

The catalogue will soon be freely available via the Archives Hub: http://archiveshub.ac.uk.

‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ episode 21/09/11

We are informed that the Robin Gibb episode of ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ will now be shown on Wednesday 21st September 2011 at 21:00. This is due to changes being made to the schedules by the BBC.

Wall to Wall Media (the producers) hope that you will be tuning in.

The company has expressed thanks to De Partu  and members of the MIDWIFERY-HISTORY JISCmail list for the assistance given to the researchers for the Robin Gibb episode, in which one of Robin’s ancestors, who was a midwife in Salford, is to be featured.

'Who do you think you are?' programme dates autumn 2011

 

Of men-midwives, murderers, and historians …

The work of Don Shelton, featured in his article ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes‘, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 103 (2010) 46–50., where he claims that the eighteenth-century men-midwives William Smellie and William Hunter had women murdered to order, to provide the illustrations for their impressive atlases of obstetrics, has given rise to considerable controversy.

Helen King discusses his work in a recent article ‘History WIthout  Historians? Medical History and the Internet‘, Social History of Medicine, published online ahead of print 8th June 2011, which she has based on a paper delivered at the De Partu colloquium held in Manchester in June 2010.  She argues that Shelton’s claims raise fresh questions about how medical history is generated, presented and evaluated in the media and, in particular, on the internet. She traces the generation and subsequent reception of what, for some, has now become a ‘historical fact’, in order to illustrate how attempts by medical historians to engage with policy and with the public exist alongside a shift towards the deprofessionalisation of history.

 

 

 

Bob Woods RIP

Regrettably, I have been informed that Bob Woods, John Rankin Professor of Geography at the University of Liverpool, has died. Some of you will have met him last year. Bob became an active supporter of De Partu in 2009. He attended the first annual lecture and was involved as an ‘expert’ at the first colloquium. His academic interests included historical demography and trends in fetal mortality, and his publications included Death before Birth (2009).
I have included below a link to Bob’s obituary from Liverpool University, kindly sent by Julia Allison.
RIP Bob.
Janette Allotey

 

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.