Tending Mothers and the Fruits of the Womb

The Work of the Midwife in the Early Modern German City

Medizin, Gesellschaft und Geschichte – Beihefte
Band 64

1. Edition
309 Pages, 10 schw.-w. Abb., 4 schw.-w. Tab.
ISBN 978-3-515-11668-8 (Print)
ISBN 978-3-515-11669-5 (eBook)

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The early modern period saw a fundamental shift in the history of childbirth from midwifery as a traditional, largely female occupation to modern obstetrics. The seeds of this transformation were sown in the cities, where municipal governments and their medical officials began reworking the often centuries-old systems of municipal midwifery. In Leipzig they overhauled midwife education and in the 1730s appointed a municipal man-midwife.

But why all the commotion about midwifery? How 'novel' were these developments really? And how did all these changes affect the everyday work of the city’s midwives? Drawing on a vast array of administrative sources, Gabrielle Robilliard explores the world of Leipzig’s midwives and early man-midwives from 1650 to 1810. Employing a prosopographical approach, she illuminates in minute detail the occupational culture and structure of both official and unofficial midwifery within the city—including social and economic milieus, client networking practices, and inter- and intraprofessional rivalries—and examines the nature of the encounter between traditional practice and new ways of organising urban midwifery provision.

Keywords: Childbirth, Early modern period, Eighteenth century, Germany, History, Leipzig, Man-midwifery, Midwife education, Midwifery, Midwives, Obstetrics, Seventeenth century, Women's hospitals

Gabrielle Robilliard
Gabrielle Robilliard is an independent scholar and academic translator specialising in the history of medicine, in particular early modern midwifery and obstetrics in Germany, as well as the history of early modern work. She completed her doctorate at the University of Warwick, United Kingdom, and has lectured in the history of medicine at the Universities of Bremen and Lüneburg.

  • Contents5-7
  • List of Figures and Tables7-9
  • Acknowledgements9-11
  • Glossary of German and Medical Terms11-13
  • Introduction13-40
    • Midwifery in Leipzig14-16
    • Histories of midwifery16-22
    • Midwifery and Enlightenment22-27
    • Time and place: Leipzig, 1650–181027-34
    • Sources34-38
    • Overview38-40
  • Chapter One: Midwifery, the City and the State Between Tradition and Reform40-81
    • Regulating midwifery from the Middle Ages to the Reformation40-43
    • From oath to instruction: midwifery regulation in Leipzig43-48
    • Midwifery and the state48-56
    • Reforming midwifery in Leipzig, c. 1650–174056-77
    • Conclusions77-81
  • Chapter Two: The Midwifery Landscape81-120
    • Sworn midwives84-96
    • Beifrauen (sworn apprentices)96-100
    • Wickelweiber (swaddling women)100-103
    • Gassenmägde (female street servants)103-106
    • Healers and nurses106-108
    • Appointing midwives108-114
    • The changing structure of the midwifery landscape114-120
  • Chapter Three: Life-Cycle, the Household Oeconomy and the Meaning of Midwifery Work120-167
    • The data123-125
    • Age: the demise of maturity125-132
    • Marriage and motherhood: from matron to working mother132-136
    • Socio-economic milieus: the artisan midwife136-147
    • Midwifery, family and household147-153
    • Midwifery and the household oeconomy: the forces of poverty153-157
    • Midwifery as a family tradition157-160
    • The social and ideological meaning of midwifery160-165
    • Conclusions165-167
  • Chapter Four: The Moral Economy of Midwifery167-195
    • The moral economy as a dialogue168-173
    • Encroachment and the moral economy of early modern work173-177
    • Patterns of encroachment177-193
    • Conclusions193-195
  • Chapter Five: Midwives, Clients and Trust195-216
    • The social and geographical patterns of client networks196-201
    • Midwifery: a matter of trust201-207
    • Mistrust: midwives, illegitimacy and infanticide207-210
    • Defending a clientele, defining a client210-214
    • Conclusions214-216
  • Chapter Six: Midwives, Medical Men and Clients: Demarcating the Parameters of Midwifery Practice216-248
    • Defining midwifery in medical discourses219-222
    • Childbed maladies and childbed practitioners: the parameters of midwifery practice222-228
    • Midwives, Accoucheurs and the power of the ‘patient’228-230
    • The practice of municipal man-midwifery230-235
    • ‘Natural’ and ‘unnatural’ births235-242
    • Turning point? Booking the Accoucheur242-246
    • Conclusions246-248
  • Chapter Seven: The ‘Difficult Birth’ of Clinical Midwifery248-271
    • Maternity hospitals in Germany and Europe249-252
    • The Stadtaccoucheur plans a ‘Hebammeninstitut’252-255
    • Midwifery in the lazarette255-259
    • Renewing plans for a ‘Hebammeninstitut’259-267
    • The Triersches Institut267-269
    • Conclusions269-271
  • Conclusion271-278
  • Appendices278-285
  • Bibliography285-304
  • Indices304--1