I usually don’t write too much about international stories as there is so much going on right here in the ol’ US of A, but this story really hit a nerve as it sheds some light on our own midwifery history.
Taiwan used to have a rich and thriving midwifery profession since at least the late 19th century and probably much before that. It is estimated that midwives delivered 400,000 babies annually up until the 1960’s. With the advent of economic prosperity in the 1970’s and the introduction of socialized health care in 1995, many proverbial nails have been put in the midwifery coffin, so much so that the state is planning to cancel the midwifery licensing exam all together as only 7 people in the entire country signed up to take it this year. Where there used to be 20 midwifery schools, now only one remains. Of the 300 registered midwives, only about 1/2 are practicing- delivering maybe a dozen babies a year. It’s very sad.
Woah! I’m going to have to create a new category called “bizarre, but believable”.
The just came out with a paper saying that the ‘fathers of obstetrics’, William Hunter and William Smellie were actually serial murders. Until now, history describes them as anatomists who gave us the first ‘scientific’ basis for obstetrics and midwifery. They lived over 250 years ago and are still highly regarded as pioneers in the field of obstetrics. Smellie designed and developed forceps and other obstetrical instruments and they ‘wrote the book’ on anatomy of childbirth.
I think I have to get this book. It’s called Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank By Randi Hutter Epstein. The author was recently interviewed on “Fresh Air” from NPR and I had a chance today to read the excerpt (linked above) and listen to the interview. Although her bit about Eve was a little too matter of fact for me (did that really happen- the whole rib, and apple thing?) it seems like an interesting and intriguing book worth a read for all interested in birth. We need to know the history because if we don’t know where we’ve been, then we don’t know where we’re going-right?
On November 15th 1917, the warden of Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to torture the women sufferagists who were being held there. They had been thrown in jail for picketing Woodrow Wilson’s White house-trying to get the word out about a woman’s right to vote. By the end of that night, many of the women were barely alive.
Being somewhat of a fan and student of the first american feminist era- the 1910’s and 20’s, I would just like to call your attention to the brave women who fought, and eventually won our right to vote. I think it’s important to remember them.