Brought to Bed: Childbearing in America, 1750-1950

Brought to Bed: Childbearing in America, 1750-1950

by Judith Walzer Leavitt
     
 
"Childbirth is more than a biological even in women's lives," writes Judith Leavitt. "It is a vital component in the social definition of women." This book uses personal accounts by birthing women and their medical attendants to show how childbirth has changed from colonial times to the present. Brought to Bed describes the traditional woman-centered

Overview

"Childbirth is more than a biological even in women's lives," writes Judith Leavitt. "It is a vital component in the social definition of women." This book uses personal accounts by birthing women and their medical attendants to show how childbirth has changed from colonial times to the present. Brought to Bed describes the traditional woman-centered home-birthing practices and their replacement by male doctors and the movement of birth from the home to the hospital. Leavitt points out that childbearing women and their physicians gradually changed birth practices because they believed the increased medicalization would make birth safer and more comfortable. The irony was that infant and maternal mortality did not immediately decline when childbirth moved into the hospital--because of the danger of infection--and more and more women found the birth experience to be an alienating one. Outside of their homes, they felt "alone among strangers". Leavitt concludes that birthing women held considerable power to determine labor and delivery events as long as childbirth remained at home. Until the 1920s and '30s, birthing women surrounded themselves with a network of supportive women whom they knew and trusted. Women, in strength, negotiated with the various experts they invited to help and determined what would be done to their bodies. When childbirth moved to the hospital in the twentieth century, the medical profession won the upper hand. The book concludes with a discussion of recent events in American obstetrics that illustrate how women are seeking to retrieve some of the traditional woman--and family--centered aspects of childbirth.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Certainly the most authoritative medical historical text on the subject in America at this time."—W. R. Penman, M.D. and D. I. Lansing, M.D., Obstetrics Society of Philadelphia

"In this groundbreaking study...Leavitt has given the history of childbirth back to women. An elegant, sensitive, and fascinating book!"—Regina Markell Morantz-Sanchez, University of California, Los Angeles

"A superb book for anyone interested in birthing, obstetrics, or even just the history of women in the United States."—Journal of the American Medical Women's Association

"A strong and sensitive contribution to understanding the (supine) position of today's childbearing woman."—Newsday

"An absorbing, richly-documented and well-argued explanation of how childbirth moved from the home to the hospital....[Its] broad conception, its balance, and its basic commitment to reconstituting the voices of women make it a classic in women's history writing."—The Women's Review of Books

"A book for men as well as women....Clearly written and persuasively documented."—Carl N. Degler, The New Republic

"In this impressive history Judith Walzer Leavitt examines centuries of childbirth experiences and analyzes how and why changes occurred....There can be no question...about the importance of this excellent study."—Isis

"A significant achievement....Certain to become a model for the new medical history, and for feminist scholarship as well."—Medical Humanities Review

"Like a good chocolate dessert, Brought to Bed is rich and filling."—Journal of Nurse-Midwifery

"A masterful examination of the competing medical, social, and intellectual forces that shaped modern obstetric practice....A wonderful book that gives new direction to the history of women and health."—Reviews in American History

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780198020912
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
11/10/1988
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
1,037,882
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

Judith Walzer Leavitt is Professor of History of Medicine and Women's Studies at the University of Wisconsin. She is the author of The Healthiest City and editor of Women and Health in America and Sickness and Health in America.

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