Early 19th century midwifery illustrated

I ran into this wonderful post on 19th century midwifery pictures (via BibliOdyssey on twitter).

Two things that particularly struck me. One is (related to the pic on the right), I quote:

The idea was that the male physician could put his fingers wherever he wanted, but common decency in post-Empire France (or mid 19th-century America, for that matter) prevented him from actually looking.

Now that is curious. I have been musing on a post on sexual harassment in the middle east and one thing that struck me from the report of that conference is that

In Yemen, where nearly all women are covered from head to toe, activist Amal Basha said 90 percent of women in a published study reported harassment, specifically pinching.

So that is an interesting similarity I thought: maybe seeing the woman is considered haram (not allowed), but touching can be excused, somehow?
I wonder how that works. Apparently that worked (for professionals at least) in 19th century France.

The other thing I noted was the lovely, more than “plus sized model”  woman in the comparison of men and women (on the left).

In an age where women are photoshopped to ridiculous proportions, it was quite refreshing to see a woman with common fat distribution.

I do realise that skinny women are biased against. However, the number of women with quite normal proportions that are biased against for being “fat”, like the woman in this ancient picture would be considered outrageously fat, reached some sort of sad apex.

That is, I hope it is an apex: it can only get better, right?

Anyway, have a look at that site, it’s delightful.

5 thoughts on “Early 19th century midwifery illustrated

  1. Interesting topic, let me add some stuff:
    * about sexual harassment
    – In M.E. the term harassment doesnot make sense or ring even a bell there. Guys there take it a sort of joyful game to harass a lady there: by saying! by waving, by touching!…
    – General view of women in M.E. is that she is a secondary being. Women always there are considered to have the mind of a child. This is comes from both traditional perspective (since women are kept at homes with the kids there), and from a religious perspective. The religious perspective stems from a “male” view on this world: Men are the sustainers of the world, Women are for their leisure and joy.
    – Also, covering women there simply stirs the desire to fancy about her. And since the economical life there is too difficult (not easy to get married there at all) young guys find much joy in spying on and harassing women and even raping them.
    – There are two issues to be noted there: What Muslim’s true religion is, and what they are: Both are in total conflict. Muslims true religion has two parts: Their “God’s word =Quran” and the many other books they take as equally holy. In Quran,generally , but not always, women have equal rights, and they should be protected and cared for. In the other holy books – which they use to interpret Quran- Women have same rank as that of donkey. So, you care about women, same as you care about your donkey.
    – I know this because i am a muslim and i know what is in there.
    * About size and shape issue of women;
    – it highly depends on the culture. For Egyptians voluptuously fat lady is very desired. For Westerners, it could be the other way.

  2. Where do you get your notion of “normal propotions” from? What is a “common fat distribution”? Does “normal” for you mean something like “statistically average in our current day”? Are you using “normal” in a purely descriptive sense, or in a normative sense?

  3. Is it really surprising to see more realistic proportions in a medical text? I don’t expect that photoshopped models appear in modern medical reference books, either.

  4. Hippocampa: I love the connections you’ve drawn here.

    I wonder if both things about sight are drawn from the idea that men will go into hyper-lust at the sight of a woman’s body.

  5. Anonymous, the word Hippocampa used was “common” not normal. That means statistically average, no “ought” stated or implied.

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