Gender and Women’s Health Care in Early Modern Europe: The Birth of Modern Midwifery and Obstetrics

Colloquium | February 17 | 2-5 p.m. | 802 Barrows Hall

 Alison Klairmont Lingo; Stephanie O'Hara; Lisa Cody; Lianne McTavish; Marie-France Morel

 Randolph Starn

 Thomas Laqueur

 Department of History, The Peder Sather Chair in History

This colloquium celebrates the publication of Midwife to the Queen of France: Diverse Observations, edited by Alison Klairmont Lingo and translated Stephanie O'Hara (ACMRS Publications, 2017).

This publication is the first complete English translation and critical edition of the three volume masterwork, Observations diverses sur la stérilité, perte de fruict, foecondité, accouchements et maladies des femmes et enfants nouveaux naiz (Paris: Mondiere, 1609, 1617, 1626) by Louise Bourgeois. Observations diverses was the first printed medical text to be published by a woman in any language. Bourgeois’s subject, childbirth and reproductive maladies, offers a unique perspective in a woman’s voice that makes it original for its time and startling to read, even today. As a medical writer, she speaks with candor from her own experience with an authority that her male counterparts could not match, given the social conventions of the era that prohibited surgeons and physicians from visually examining female patients, even those in the throes of labor and delivery. This first person account catalogues Bourgeois's struggles and triumphs with her clients and their families, including the royal family, Henri IV and Marie de Médcis as well as with other midwives, physicians and surgeons. Bourgeois inserts dramatic case histories, two autobiographical narratives and a didactic essay to her daughter into these three volumes to create a text with multiple genres, each of which build upon the other.

Alison Klairmont Lingo is a Research Associate in the Department of History at UC Berkeley. She received her Master's degree in History from UC Berkeley in 1972, and completed her PhD in 1980. She has taught at SF State, North Carolina State, UC Berkeley, Mills College, and CCA. In addition to editing and annotating the translation of Observations diverses, Alison has also published numerous articles on women and medicine in early modern France and co-edited (with Steven K Vincent) The Human Tradition in Modern France (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, Inc., 2000).

Stephanie O’Hara is Associate Professor of French and Women’s & Gender Studies Co-Chair at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. She received her PhD in French Literature from Duke University.