Most early modern Dutch doctors portrayed city midwives in their writings as illiterate, poor, ignorant, and unprofessional. It was believed that their low position made them unable to give adequate medical advice to pregnant women and to assist them in giving birth. For this reason, city governments would have felt compelled to issue several ordinances aimed at raising the level of professional knowledge and behaviour of midwives. This article uses two approaches to challenge these stereotypes regarding city midwives by means of a case study of early modern Dordrecht (1620–1720). In the first part the ideas of the Dutch city doctor Johan van Beverwijck (1594–1647) are explained. He was one of the first writers to present a moderately positive image of the medical responsibilities of city midwives. In the second part their social background is investigated with the help of prosopographical material (income, marital status, husband’s occupation, and home address). Furthermore, it is argued that, in addition to medical tasks, city midwives also had legal and religious duties. The combination of these sources illustrates that city midwives, as city servants, formed an integral part of society in early modern Dordrecht.
|Translated title of the contribution||The social position of city midwives in early modern Dordrecht|
|Number of pages||17|
|Journal||Studium. Tijdschrift voor Wetenschaps- en Universiteitsgeschiedenis. Revue d'Histoire des Sciences et de Universités|
|Publication status||Published - 2016|