In seventeenth and eighteenth century France, the medical world took an increased interest in the functions of pregnancy, labor, and the delivery of infants. Previously a realm dominated by female practitioners, the birthing chamber became the site of a contentious feud. Male practitioners argued that birth was a dangerous, pathological event that should be attended by licensed, medical practitioners, while midwives sought to maintain their longstanding place. Two extraordinary midwives provided writings essential to the analysis of the feud in the medical marketplace of early modern France: Louise Bourgeois (Boursier) in the seventeenth century and Angélique du Coudray in the eighteenth century. Both women were held in high esteem by their colleagues and published multiple volumes detailing their methods and observations. Using their works as a lens into the medical marketplace, the following independent study examines the changing role of the midwife, the male midwife, and the fight over the birthing chamber. Although midwives were never forced out of the French birthing chamber completely, the profession became delegitimized as a result of hostilities in the early modern medical world.


Ng, Margaret




European History | History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Women's History

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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