• Tanya Evans


Up until the eighteenth century, women had dominated the culture of childbirth. The vast majority of mothers gave birth within their own homes using midwives recommended to them by family, friends and neighbours.1 These midwives were usually mature married or widowed women who had had children themselves.2 The rituals of childbirth and churching, where women would mark the end of their lying-in period with a religious ceremony of thanks, were practised by women regardless of social status.3 Between 1747 and 1767, the culture and experience of childbirth changed for many women as religious, social, mercantilist and humanitarian motives combined to contribute to the establishment of seven institutions dedicated to the delivery of poor pregnant women in London, and as upper-class women began to use male physicians during their deliveries. The voluntary hospital movement was just one element of the new philanthropic endeavours of the mid-eighteenth century.4 Plebeian mothers entered the public imagination of Britain and Europe as populationist concerns swept through the corridors of power.5


Married Woman Unmarried Woman Poor Woman Hospital Authority Unmarried Mother 
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© Tanya Evans 2005

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  • Tanya Evans

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