“Slovou a jsou ony nás všech veliké matky.” Midwives and Their Role in the Early Modern Society Cover Image
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„Slovou a jsou ony nás všech veliké matky.“ Porodní báby a jejich role v raně novověké společnosti
“Slovou a jsou ony nás všech veliké matky.” Midwives and Their Role in the Early Modern Society

Author(s): Hana Matějková
Subject(s): History
Published by: Univerzita Palackého v Olomouci

Summary/Abstract: In the early modern times pregnancy and childbirth were considered specifically female domains. They were perceived as taboos and were hidden from men’s eyes. Female fellowship of married relatives and neighbours was formed to support an expectant mother. In this community, a midwife played the key role. Midwives acquired their knowledge and experience with childbirths in the course of many years of practice. Their tasks did not include only practical help during pregnancy, childbirth and puerperium. They provided the expectant mother with spiritual consolation, they prepared her for death in case it was inevitable. They were competent to administer the sacrament of baptism in emergencies to weak or dying newborn babies. Their social role was complex in the early modern times. The society which could not manage without midwives’ help expressed its gratitude and esteem in the way of social posts which they held – they carried babies to baptism instead of their mothers who stayed in privacy because of the puerperium period, they accompanied a woman after the puerperium when she was festivaly introduced into a church. The expressions of esteem and gratitude can be also found in private sources, especially in aristocratic memoirs, correspondence and testaments. The midwives´ monopoly in this area was disturbed by “professional“ doctors-obstetricians in the 18th century. These academically educated men with their theoretical knowledge of anatomy and physiology demanded subordination of “uneducated” midwives to their supervision and instructions. The so-called demarcation dispute between doctors and midwives came into being. Consequently, midwives were put in the shade and they lost their specific position in the society.

  • Issue Year: 2011
  • Issue No: 39
  • Page Range: 51-62
  • Page Count: 12
  • Language: Czech