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>the Controversy< Martha and a Man-Midwife Who Was Dr. Ben Page? Summing Up
Smellie Treatise
Smellie Collection
Samuel Gregory , Man-Midwifery Exposed and Corrected
The man-midwifery controversy continued throughout the nineteenth century and into the twentieth. In the American press, Samuel Gregory argued with some of the authors from the past and added his own thoughts, which echoed ideas already more than 100 years old.Quote from page 48



Questions to ask these pages:

1. What was Gregory's main argument against man-midwifery?

2. According to Gregory, what was the effect of "constant familiarity"?

Questions to ask the book:

1. What did Nihell say motivated most man-midwives?
Find out in
the archive

2. According to Nihell, why did people use male rather than female midwives?
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the archive

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  Title Page   Page 48  


ceived this seal of affection, had heard that their husbands were seen kissing other ladies, they would have had sad forebodings that improper sentiments at least existed between the parties.
   An honorable physician would not designedly do any thing to bring about an unhappy result; but in the medical profession, as in others, there are all sorts of men. Many a one, of course, base enough to gratify his vanity by making a conquest of another man's wife. Many others, in Bible language, 'having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls; a heart have they exercised with covetous practices; cursed children.' Various hypotheses have been offered to explain why the study and practice of medicine tend to irreligion, infidelity, and consequent want of principle, as has been observed by moralists, and medical authors themselves. Some suppose the constant dwelling on the material part of human nature creates an indifference to the spiritual and moral portion. A truer explanation would be, the nature of the physician's duties, the great intimacy now required between physician's and the female population. It operates unfavorably both by drawing depraved men into the practice, and by depraving men who were upright and honorable when they entered upon it.
   Clerks and cashiers in banks, in consequence of handling so much money, look upon it as cheap, and, as the temptation is constantly before them, they are very liable to make unlawful appropriations. So the physician, by constant familiarity, comes to consider female delicacy and reserve as not worth preserving, and even fidelity and virtue are perhaps considered of as little consequence as bank notes.
   Quite as bad is the effect on the patient. Many a daughter of infamy could date her ruin from some customary professional intimacy. That was the time she passed the Rubicon. No man ever suddenly became a drunkard, a debauchee; no woman without a preliminary moral prostitution ever became a harlot.
   William Cobbet, an acute observer and widely celebrated author, in speaking on this very subject, the great intimacy of physicians with the female population, says, 'We have this conclusion, this indubitable proof of the falling off in real delicacy; namely, that common prostitutes, formerly unknown, now swarm in our cities, and are seldom wanting even in our villages; and where there was one

illegitimate child only fifty years ago, there are now twenty. And who can say how far the employment of men, in the cases alluded to, may have assisted in producing this change, so disgraceful to the present age, and so injurious to the female sex? The prostitution and swarms of illegitimate children have a natural and inevitable tendency to lessen that respect, and that kind and indulgent feeling, which is due from all men to virtuous women. And many a man is disposed to adopt the unjust sentiment of Pope, that "every woman is at heart a rake." Who knows, I say, in what degree the employment of men-operators may have tended to produce this change, so injurious to the female sex?' --This was spoken of man-midwifery in England, but it is strictly applicable to our own country.
   Buffon, --whose one hundred and twenty volumes, on the Natural History of the earth, minerals, plants, animals, and man, testify to his comprehensive mind and his vast research, and who for his gigantic labors, was honored by his king with the title of 'Count,' -- the intelligent observer of nature, Buffon says, "This species of folly, which considers female chastity merely a physical existence, has given rise to many absurd opinions, customs, and ceremonies, and to the most illicit abuses, and to practices which shock humanity. In the submission of women to the unnecessary examinations of physicians, exposing the secrets of nature, it is forgotten that every indecency of this kind is a violent attack against chastity, that every situation which produces an internal blush is a real prostitution."
   If the opinion of this eminent man be correct, man-midwifery, with other 'indecencies,' is a great system of fashionable prostitution; a primary school of infamy --as the fashionable hotel and parlor wine glass qualify candidates for the two-penny grog-shop and the gutter. Who wonders at the present rage of women for exhibiting themselves upon the stage, in state of semi-nudity, so that the public generally may be entertained, without the trouble and expense of studying medicine!
   The advertisement of the Medical Lectures for 1847, in the New York University, says, 'During the past five sessions, more than 1200 cases of midwifery have been attended by the students of the university.' Procuring and prostitution go hand in hand. This institution is bound to flourish, affording such facilities for information.
   Physicians make great account of the fact,

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