There was a time when birthwas treated as a natural process rather than a medical condition. Before1800, women gave birth seated in birth chairs or on stools and were helpedalong by midwives. Then societal changes in attitudes toward women andthe practice of medicine made birthing a province of the male-dominatedmedical profession.
In Birth Chairs, Midwives,and Medicine Amanda Carson Banks examines the history of the birth chairand tells how this birthing device changed over time. Through photographs,artists' renditions of births, interviews, and texts from midwives andearly obstetricians, she creates an evolutionary picture of birthing practicesand highlights the radical redefinition of birth that has occurred in thelast two centuries.
During the 1800s the changefrom a natural philosophy of birth to a medical one was partly a resultof heightened understandings of anatomy and physiology. The medical professionwas growing, and with it grew the awareness of the economic rewards ofmaking delivery a specialized practice. In the background of the medicalprofession's rise was the prevailing perception of women as fragile invalids.Gradually, midwives and birth chairs were relegated to rural and isolatedsettings.
The popularity of birth chairshas seen a revival in the late twentieth century as the struggle betweenmedical obstetrics and the alternative birth movement has grown. As Banksshows through her careful examination of the chairs themselves, these questionshave been answered and reconsidered many times in human history. Usingthe artifacts from the home and medical office, Banks traces sweeping societalchanges in the philosophy of how to bring life into the world.
Amanda Carson Banks is Director of Development for the College ofEngineering and Computer Science at California State University, Sacramento.Her articles have appeared in journals like Journal of American Folklore,Impromptu Journal, and Women & Language.
|author||Amanda Carson Banks|
|Number of Pages||184 pp.|
|Publisher||University of Mississippi Press|