draft ~ Topic-6_p14-&-15_The gender gap writ large

by faithgibson on February 7, 2023

in Draft

Copied to fg.org as draft May 2023

Topic-6_p14-&-15_The gender gap writ large

Unfortunately, this part of the story begins with the male of the species assuming that men naturally do everything better than members of the female gender. For obstetricians in leadership roles in the early 20th century, the specific gender-related target was midwives.  What they characterized as the “midwife problem”, was the problem that doctors were having in eliminating midwives. Typical opinions about midwives remind me of the disparaging comments that upper-class whites have always made about the poor, uneducated, immigrants, and people of color.

In 1906 an obstetrician by the name of Dr. Gerwin described midwives as:

“ the typical … midwife, her mouth full of snuff, her fingers full of dirt and her brain full of arrogance and superstition”


A paper published 1907 by Drs. Emmons and Huntington criticized midwives for:


“the overconfidence of half-knowledge, …unprincipled and callous for the welfare of her patients”

Dr J. Whitridge Williams, 1912:

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]


Dr. Joseph DeLee’s 1915 publication “The Teaching of Obstetrics“; American Association of Obstetrics and Gynecologists


The midwife has long been a drag on the progress of the science and art of obstetrics. Her existence stunts the one and degrades the other. For many centuries she perverted obstetrics from obtaining any standing at all among the science of medicine.


The midwife is a relic of barbarism. In civilized countries the midwife is wrong, has always been wrong. The greatest bar to human progress has been compromise, and the midwife demands a compromise between right and wrong. All admit that the midwife is wrong. [Transaction of the American Society for the Prevention of Infant mortality (TASPIM) 1915, p. 114]


If the profession would realize that parturition [childbirth], viewed with modern eyes, is no longer a normal function, but that it has imposing pathologic dignity, the midwife would be impossible of mention.” [TASPIM, 1915 p.117]



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