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Catching Babies: The Professionalization of Childbirth, 1870-1920
     

Catching Babies: The Professionalization of Childbirth, 1870-1920

by Charlotte G. Borst
 

Childbirth is a quintessential family event that simultaneously holds great promise and runs the risk of danger. By the late nineteenth century, the birthing room had become a place where the goals of the new scientific professional could be demonstrated, but where traditional female knowledge was in conflict with the new ways. Here the choice of attendants and

Overview

Childbirth is a quintessential family event that simultaneously holds great promise and runs the risk of danger. By the late nineteenth century, the birthing room had become a place where the goals of the new scientific professional could be demonstrated, but where traditional female knowledge was in conflict with the new ways. Here the choice of attendants and their practices defined gender, ethnicity, class, and the role of the professional.

Using the methodology of social science theory, particularly quantitative statistical analysis and historical demography, Charlotte Borst examines the effect of gender, culture, and class on the transition to physician-attended childbirth. Earlier studies have focused on physician opposition to midwifery, devoting little attention to the training for and actual practice of midwifery. As a result, until now we knew little about the actual conditions of the midwife's education and practice.

Catching Babies is the first study to examine the move to physician-attended birth within the context of a particular community. It focuses on four representative counties in Wisconsin to study both midwives and physicians within the context of their community. Borst finds that midwives were not pushed out of practice by elitist or misogynist obstetricians. Instead, their traditional, artisanal skills ceased to be valued by a society that had come to embrace the model of disinterested, professional science. The community that had previously hired midwives turned to physicians who shared ethnic and cultural values with the very midwives they replaced.

Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Using the methodology of social science theory, particularly quantitative statistical analysis and historical demography, Borst (history, U. of Alabama) examines the effects of gender, culture, and class on the transition to physician-attended child birth. She focuses on four representative counties in Wisconsin to study both midwives and doctors, and finds that rather than being pushed aside by elitist obstetricians, midwives (and their traditional skills) ceased to be valued by a society embracing the model of disinterested, professional science. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780674102620
Publisher:
Harvard University Press
Publication date:
12/28/1995
Pages:
268
Product dimensions:
6.38(w) x 9.52(h) x 0.90(d)

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