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LOUYSE BOURGEOIS AND THE EMERGENCE OF MODERN MIDWIFERY

Authors

  • Philip A. Kalisch Ph.D.,

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    • Philip A. Kalisch, Ph.D., is Professor of History and Politics of Nursing at the University of Michigan, School of Nursing, Ann Arbor. Beatrice J. Kalisch, R.N., Ed.D., F.A.A.N., is the Titus Distinguished Professor of Nursing, Chairperson for Parent-Child Nursing, and Director of the Graduate Program in Parent-Child Nursing also at the University of Michigan. They have been co-investigators on a series of federally funded research projects over the past 12 years on various aspects of the history and politics of nursing. Among the books they have co-authored are: The Advance of American Nursing (Little Brown, 1978), Nursing Involvement in Health Planning (HEW, 1978), The Politics of Nursing (Lippincott, in press) and The Image of the Nurse on Television (Springer, in press). They have also co-authored numerous articles and book chapters.

  • Margaret Scobey M.A.,

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    • Margaret Scobey, M.A., a research associate in the History and Politics of Nursing, University of Michigan and is currently completing her Ph.D.

  • Beatrice J. Kalisch R.N., Ed.D., F.A.A.N.

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    • Philip A. Kalisch, Ph.D., is Professor of History and Politics of Nursing at the University of Michigan, School of Nursing, Ann Arbor. Beatrice J. Kalisch, R.N., Ed.D., F.A.A.N., is the Titus Distinguished Professor of Nursing, Chairperson for Parent-Child Nursing, and Director of the Graduate Program in Parent-Child Nursing also at the University of Michigan. They have been co-investigators on a series of federally funded research projects over the past 12 years on various aspects of the history and politics of nursing. Among the books they have co-authored are: The Advance of American Nursing (Little Brown, 1978), Nursing Involvement in Health Planning (HEW, 1978), The Politics of Nursing (Lippincott, in press) and The Image of the Nurse on Television (Springer, in press). They have also co-authored numerous articles and book chapters.


ABSTRACT

As a contribution to establishing the antecedents of nurse-midwifery, this article focuses on the career of Louyse Bourgeois(1563–1636), a major figure in the history of modern midwifery. She was the first midwife to publish a book on obstetrics and the first to publish on midwifery. Within her writings she outlined clear guidelines for sound clinical practice and articulated an ethical code to govern the practice of midwives. For example, Bourgeois recommended induced labor in cases of contracted pelvis; she was the first to discuss the management of umbilical prolapse; she offered a detailed description of facepresentation and its management; and she was the first to cut the cord between two ligatures, when it was wrapped about the neck. She was an ambitious woman, not only for her personal advancement but for the advancement of female midwives as a group. More than 350 years ago she called for improvements in the training of midwives and saw the value of providing midwives with theoretical framework in support of clinical practice. As midwife to the Queen of France and to other influentialfamilies, Bourgeois took advantage of every opportunity to improve her own position and that of her calling. Her eventual fall fromprominence, due to attacks by physicians and surgeons, is remarkably similar to the emotional conflict that surrounds present day nurse-midwife and medical profession confrontations over practice issues.

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