American College of Community Midwives
Addendum #2 ~
California College of Midwives - Comments for the record
MBC Public Hearing August 1, 2003
Published by Cummings and Hilliard - Boston, 1820
"Remarks on the Employment of Females as Practitioners in Midwifery
The following quotes are excerpted from a pamphlet published by a physician in 1820. It attests to the common belief of medical professionals at the time of publication (1820) concerning midwives. In particular, these quotes reveal their objections to women being formally trained as midwives. This rejection of women as "practitioners" was based on a series of erroneous and/or self-serving ideas
Although this was written nearly 200 years ago, the ideas it espouses still reflect the opinions of the obstetrical profession.
Excerpts advancing the idea that woman were unfit to practice midwifery:
"A man must be a universal practitioner in midwifery, before he is qualified for a practitioner in difficult cases."
"The profession of medicine does not afford a field for the display and indulgence of those finer feelings, which would be naturally called into operation by the circumstances in which a practitioner is placed.""
"Where the responsibility in scenes of distress and danger does not fall upon them, when there is some one on whom they can lean, in whose skill and judgment they have entire confidence, they retain their collection and presence of mind; but where they become the principal agents, the feelings of sympathy are too powerful for the cool exercise of judgment."
". . . we cannot expect [female practitioners] to be possessed of this essential part of their education. . . . it is obvious that we cannot instruct women as we do men in the science of medicine; we cannot carry them into the dissecting room and the hospital; many of our more delicate feelings, much of our refined sensibility must be subdued, before we can submit to the sort of discipline required in the study of medicine; in females they must be destroyed; and I venture to say that a female could scarce pass through the course of education requisite to prepare her, as she ought to be prepared, for the practice of midwifery, without destroying those moral qualities of character, which are essential to the office."
"Heretofore, where midwifery has been in the hands of women, they have only practiced among the poorer and lower classes of people; the richer and better informed preferring to employ physicians, and this has been the reason why it has not become universal; but if it is again introduced among the rich and influential, it will become fashionable; it will be considered as indelicate and vulgar to employ as physician, and the custom will become general."
"It is sufficiently obvious if the employment of female practitioners becomes fashionable, that it will create a fastidious nicety of feeling, which will make it be thought indelicate to suffer the attendance of a physician in any of these complaints."
"Women seldom forget a practitioner who has conducted them tenderly and safely through parturition. . ."
"It is principally on this account that the practice of midwifery becomes desirable to physicians. It is this which ensures to them the permanency and security of all their other business."
"It is one of the first and happiest fruits of improved medical education in America, that they were excluded from the practice; and it was only by the united and persevering exertions of some of the most distinguished individuals our profession has been able to boast, that this was effected."