Publication Date

April 2019

Advisor(s)

Megan Glick

Major

Science in Society

Language

English (United States)

Abstract

(Black) Midwifery Foreclosed: The Racialization and Medicalization of Childbirth Care, 1910s-1950s explores the historical roots of racial disparities in maternal health by assessing the transition of childbirth care that took place in the American South during the early and mid-20th century. In this project, I argue that the gradual replacement of Black midwives by White health practitioners was not done entirely out of concern for improving maternal and infant health among Black women. By using race as a focusing lens through which to analyze the change in the administration of childbirth care from Black midwives to White health professionals, I propose that the motives for this change were also––and perhaps more so––grounded in the desire for White practitioners to (re)gain authority over and control of Black bodies. As will be seen throughout this project, the practical skills and capabilities of Black midwives were often framed as secondary to those of White medical practitioners, which ultimately implied their inferiority on the basis of race and gender and justified their regulation by White health professionals; Given these circumstances, I also argue that the relationship between the phasing out of midwifery and its association with Black women was reciprocal, which lead to the racialization of midwifery as a profession and ultimately facilitated its dismantling by White medical professionals over the course of the 20th century.

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