31 Jan 2011 5:00pm - 6:30pm CRASSH, 17 Mill Lane, Cambridge



Dr Angela Davis Centre for the History of Medicine, The University of Warwick)

Dr Sian Pooley (History, University of Cambridge)

Dr Salim Al-Gailani (University of Cambridge)

Evening seminar


The story of

medicalisation of pregnancy and childbirth is a well-known one, but little attention has been paid to how women actually experienced these changes. In this paper I will therefore tease out the experiences of women themselves in order to consider the complexity of their responses to their maternity care, their relationships with their attendants, the differences between women, and how their experiences influence the ways in which the later constructed their accounts of childbirth. My findings are based on seventy oral history interviews with women from Oxfordshire and Berkshire about their experiences of motherhood between 1970 and 1990. I will show that women's complaints about their maternity care centre on two main points: the first is their criticism of interventionist procedures; the second is the lack of emotional support they received from medical staff. Of course the two are not entirely unlinked. Poor emotional care could exacerbate the effects of unwelcome interventions and vice versa. However, I will conclude that it was less the technical advances that women reacted against, but the ways in which they were employed.



Angela Davis is a British 





Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the Centre for the History of Medicine at the University of Warwick. Her research has focused on motherhood in postwar England and her monograph, Modern Motherhood: Women and Family in England, 1945-2000, is forthcoming with Manchester University Press. She is currently working on a project looking at the provision and experience of pre-school childcare in Britain during the years 1939-1979.



Sian Pooley is the

Mark Kaplanoff Research Fellow in History at Pembroke College, Cambridge. Her research interests lie in nineteenth- and twentieth-century British social and cultural history. In particular, issues relating to family, intimacy and fertility; childhood and youth; and cultures of place, citizenship and nationhood in modern Britain. Sian’s doctoral thesis focused on parenthood and child-rearing in England, c.1860-1910, and she is currently turning this into a monograph.

Salim Al-Gailani is a Research Associate on the Wellcome Trust Strategic Award on Generation to Reproduction.  His research interests are in history of medicine and the life sciences since 1800; obstetrics and midwifery; public health and welfare; museums and the material culture of science and medicine, especially anatomical collections; histories of pregnancy, embryo and fetus.  Salim's current project on 'birth defects' and maternal-feta relations in the twentieth century builds on his recently-completed PhD thesis on teratology and the early history of antenatal care in Britain.



Open to all.  No registration required.

Part of the Cambridge Interdisciplinary Reproduction Forum seminar series.
For more information about CIRF, please visit the link on the right hand side of this page.


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