XXX Quotes ~ #4 Dr. JWW’s book “Twilight Sleep: Simple Discoveries in Painless Childbirth” (1914)

by faithgibson on September 5, 2015

in Contemporary Childbirth Politics, Historical Childbirth Politics 1820-1980

A Call to Arms, Urging every man to “have a share in the beneficent movement”

Whatever your position in the community, you can at least call the attention of your friends and neighbors to this vitally important matter. And it may well be expected that the response will be quick and keen; that knowledge of the movement will spread from house to house; and that the public interest aroused will lead to active steps for the establishment in your midst of an institution where the woman in childbirth may be given the solace of the “Twilight Sleep,” with all the attendant blessings that the word in its wildest implications is here meant to connote.

Is it not worth your while to have a share in this beneficent movement?

Secondary source – Transaction of the Am Society for the Study and Prevention of Infant Mortality:

“As indigent women were brought into the system as teaching cases it was discovered that they were willing to pay a small sum for their 2 week stay ($1.28) and that even that small amount represented a profit to the hospital. Maternity patients were beginning to be viewed as not only as valuable “clinical material” for medical education
but also as a source of profit to the hospital.


Famed scientists disputes fetal-neonatal damage as a result of the scopolamine narcosis of its mother :

“the tendency to retard respiration on the part of the child may sometimes be beneficial, preventing the infant from inhaling too early, thus minimizing the danger of strangulation from inhalation of fluids. It appears that statistics of the Frauenklinik show that the percentage of infant mortality is low.

“As against an infant mortality of 16 percent [editor’s note: in today’s terms, that is 160 baby deaths per 1,000 births] for the state of Baden [Germany] in the same year a report on 421 ‘Twilight Sleep’ babies showed a death-rate of 11.6 percent [NNMR of 116 per 1,000]

“For this strikingly low mortality of the children during and after birth under semi-narcosis, explanation was sought of Professor Ludwig Aschoff, the great German authority on morbid anatomy. He offered the theoretic explanation that slight narcotization of the respiratory organs during birth by extremely minute quantities of scopolamine[e] is advantageous to the child, as it tends to prevent permanent obstruction of the air-passage of children by premature respiration during birth.”


Letting Dr. J.Whitridge Williams get the last word:

“The peculiar ills to which women are subject by virtue of their sex are so familiar that we are apt to overlook their number and importance. Dr. Williams called attention to them in a recent address before the American Association for the Study and Prevention of Infant Mortality and he emphasized others in a private conversation

Have you ever considered,” he said, “the economical significance of the fact that three out of every five women are more or less incapacitated for several days each month, and that one of them is quite unable to attend to her duties. Granting that the two sexes are possessed of equal intelligence, it means that women cannot expect to compete successfully with men.

For until they are able to work under pressure for 30 days each month, they cannot expect the same compensation as the men who do so.”

~ ” ….. the ideal obstetrician is not a man-midwife, but a broad scientific man, with a surgical training, who is prepared to cope with most serious clinical responsibilities, and at the same time is interested in extending our field of knowledge. No longer would we hear physicians say that they cannot understand how an intelligent man can take up obstetrics, which they regard as about as serious an occupation as a terrier dog sitting before a rathole waiting for the rat to escape.”

1911-B American Association for the Study and Prevention of Infant Mortality; Williams.MD – “The Midwife Problem and Medical Education in the US”


Preview of Coming Attractions


Even were local lying-in hospitals to be established everywhere, however, there would still remain much to be done before the needs of women in connection with the great function of child-bearing have been adequately met.

“At present, gynecology and obstetrics are too sharply divided and are conducted upon too practical a basis to give ideal results. The progressive gynecologist considers that obstetrics should include only the conduct of normal labor, or at most of such cases as can be terminated without radical operative interference, while all other conditions should be treated by him – in other words, that the obstetrician should be the man-midwife.

“The advanced obstetrician, on the other hand, holds that everything connected with the reproductive processes of women is part of his field, and if this contention were sustained, very little would be left for the gynecologist.


WHAT HALF A MILLION WOULD DO (a solicitation addressed to the philanthropists of Dr. JWW’s day)

Here, then, is a brief outline of a project for the carrying out of investigations in the interests of womankind, and for the better education of the physicians who are to minister to her physical needs.

And what, it will naturally be asked, stands in the way of the immediate carrying out of so beneficent a project?

The answer may be given in this brief sentence: Lack of funds.

The initial endowment left by Johns Hopkins for the foundation of the hospital that bears his name has been kept intact. But the entire income from it is required to conduct the various departments of the hospital on the existing basis, and it is impossible for the Trustees to apportion money, without an unjustifiable infringement on the capital, for the
development of such a woman’s clinic as is absolutely prerequisite to the carrying out of such a project as Dr. Williams outlines.

How much money would be required?

The answer seems almost ridiculous in these days of large financial enterprises. For we are told, on competent authority, that the paltry sum of $200,000 would suffice to enlarge the present buildings devoted to the obstetrical and gynecological departments at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and that $300,000 more would suffice as an endowment for the maintenance of the additional patients.

Half a million dollars, then, entrusted to the wise stewardship of the Johns Hopkins authorities, would suffice to establish a woman’s clinic, in which matters that vitally concern the twenty million mothers of America would be investigated, as they are being investigated nowhere else in this country

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