two confinements. On the second occasion, though the physician was a
kind and excellent man, a familiar in the family, yet such was the effect
of his presence on his wife, that the progress of the labor was suspended,
and it was impossible for the child to be born, until they requested the
doctor to leave the room: then all went on to a speedy and succesful termination.
Since then, he said, he had followed the dictates of nature and proprietry,
and employed a midwife, as he had had occasion in several intances, and
the consequence had been entire success, without any of the embarrassment
and injurious effects of having a man about. 'O,' said he, with much feeling,
'there is no knowing how much delicate and sensitive women suffer mentally,
and how much their bodily sufferings and dangers to life are increased,
by the unnecessary and unnatural practice of employing men to officiate
at childbirth.' He expressed a deep interest in the success of this enterprise
of restoring the office to women.
I have never conversed with an editor who argued against the plan
of instructing and employing midwives; indeed, it is an exceedingly rare
thing to find a non-medical gentleman, in any class of society, who takes
that ground. The only question in their minds is, Can male attendants
be dispensed with, and females employed with safety? If this question
can be satisfactorily answered in the affirmative, as it most assuredly
can be, there would seem to be no insuperable obstacle in the way of an
entire change of practitioners, and that too in no great length of time.
Let us have, by legislative enactment and appropriation, or by private
donation, an institution that shall afford a supply of thoroughly qualified
female practitioners, according to the example of France and other countries.
No one can doubt that this would be exceedingly gratifying to the public;
and the medical profession would of course accommodate themselves to the
new order of things. The supply is always regulated by the demand.
If a smaller number of physicians should be needed, a smaller number of
young men would turn their attention to that profession.
Man-midwifery in Boston in 1820.
'Remarks on the Employment of Females as Practitioners in
Midwifery. By a Phy-
Published by Cummings and Hilliard, 1820.'
Such is the title of a pamphlet of 24 octavo pages---a document of remarkable
interest, not only on account of its contents, but from the circumstances
which called it into existence.
The 'Physician' commences thus: 'The attention of the public having lately
been turned to the subject of the employment of females as accoucheurs,
has led to some discussion among the faculty and others with regard to the
safety and expediency of midwifery instead of physicians.'
It may be interesting to the younger part of our population, and call up
some reminiscences among the elder citizens, to have the history of an event
which happened twenty-eight years ago. What, then, turned public attention
to that subject, at that time? Here is the clew to the matter---an obituary
notice in the Boston Liberator, of 1845, runs thus:---
'Mrs. Janet Alexander died in Boston, September 15, 1845, after an illness
of nearly five months, aged 61 years. She was a native of Scotland, and
was instructed in the theory and practice of midwifery by Dr. James Hamilton,
the celebrated professor of midwifery in the University of Edinburgh. She
received her diploma from him in 1817. She arrived in Boston in November,
1819, and commenced the exercise of her profession on the ensuing Christmas
day; and, for a period of more than twenty-five years' practice among the
most intelligent and respectable portion of the community, was most singularly
successful, having never in any instance lost a patient!'
It is something of a coincidence, it may be remarked in passing, that this
excellent and useful woman arrived here, with her diploma from high authority,
just one century after that benefactress of her race, Mrs. Elizabeth Phillips,
who arrived in 1719, 'commissioned by John, Lord Bishop of London, and,
by the blessing of God, brought into this world above 3000 children.' How
many centuries more is New England to depend on the 'Old Country,' for qualified
and commissioned midwives?
The arrival of Mrs. Alexander, then, was the beginning of the troublous
times, and 'discussion among the faculty.' But wherefore? They were not
frightened by a woman, and she was a friendless stranger. No; but
she was not entirely friendless; for two