Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Actually, it was pretty bad ...

Some knowledgeable scholars respond to my post on childbirth:
In practice, in England, I doubt many women stayed in bed for a month - it depended on how quickly a mother recovered from the birth rather than being a rigidly defined period. And they weren't really in seclusion: there'd be a regular flow of 'gossips' and food and gifts. It was all meant to be very sociable - for women, anyway. Men weren't welcome. (I think Natalie Davis argued somewhere in her classic 'Women on top' essay that this was a period of household role reversal, when husbands would be expected to do housework and childcare and could be bossed around by their wives, but I'm not sure just how much evidence she had for that one.)
[Judith Leavitt] has an article on "twilight sleep" that is excellent - let's just say that the popular conception that "doctors medicalized and took over childbirth" is not accurate at all. Childbirth was incredibly dangerous and painful and women who could afford pain relief (after the discovery of things like ether) demanded it.


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