Day 5: Historical and contemporary comments by physicians about midwives ~ 1820 to 2014

by faithgibson on April 5, 2016

in Contemporary Childbirth Politics, Historical Childbirth Politics 1820-1980

A 30-day series of quotes spanning two hundred years ~ click here to begin with Day 1

You can also read the entire series as a single post

Day 5 ~ 1912 and 1913

1912Dr J. Whitridge Williams, :

The question in my mind is not “what shall we do with the midwife?” We are totally indifferent as to what will becomes of her…[1912-B, p.225]

No attempt should be made to establish school for midwives, since, in my opinion, they are to be endured in ever-decreasing numbers while substitutes are being created to displace them. [1912-B; p.227]

1912 ~ Dr J. Whitridge Williams continues:

Another very pertinent objection to the midwife is that she has charge of 50 percent of all the obstetrical material [teaching cases] of the country, without contributing anything to our knowledge of the subject.

As we shall point out, a large percentage of the cases are indispensable to the proper training of physicians and nurses in this important branch of medicine..” [1912-B, p.224]

In all but a few medical schools, the students deliver no cases in a hospital under supervision, receive but little even in the way of demonstrations on women in labor and are sent into out-patient departments to deliver, at most, but a half dozen cases.

When we recall that abroad the midwives are required to deliver in a hospital at least 20 cases under the most careful supervision and instruction before being allowed to practice, it is evident that the training of medical students in obstetrics in this country is a farce and a disgrace.

It is perfectly plain that the midwife cases … are necessary for the proper training of medical students.


If for no other reason, this one alone is sufficient to justify the elimination of a large number of midwives, since the standard of obstetrical teaching and practice can never be raised without giving better training to physicians.” [1912-B, p.226] 

1913 ~ Dr. Van Blarcom, MD New York State:

The diagnostic ability of midwives is generally good and in the case of many, remarkable excellent. In this respect, the average midwife is fully the equal of the average physician. 

1913 ~ Dr. Van Ingen and Dr. Josephine Baker, MD; for NYC

Birth Attendant:




Total Births (%):








Neonatal Deaths:




1913 ~ Dr. Huntington, influential obstetrician of  his day:

… the midwife will work a definite hardship to those physicianswho have become well-trained in obstetrics for it will … decrease their sphere of influence.


Day 6 ~ 1914 — Dr Williams has a lot more to say

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