Birthing a Slave: Motherhood and Medicine in the Antebellum South

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9780674034921: Birthing a Slave: Motherhood and Medicine in the Antebellum South

The deprivations and cruelty of slavery have overshadowed our understanding of the institution's most human dimension: birth. We often don't realize that after the United States stopped importing slaves in 1808, births were more important than ever; slavery and the southern way of life could continue only through babies born in bondage.

In the antebellum South, slaveholders' interest in slave women was matched by physicians struggling to assert their own professional authority over childbirth, and the two began to work together to increase the number of infants born in the slave quarter. In unprecedented ways, doctors tried to manage the health of enslaved women from puberty through the reproductive years, attempting to foster pregnancy, cure infertility, and resolve gynecological problems, including cancer.

Black women, however, proved an unruly force, distrustful of both the slaveholders and their doctors. With their own healing traditions, emphasizing the power of roots and herbs and the critical roles of family and community, enslaved women struggled to take charge of their own health in a system that did not respect their social circumstances, customs, or values. Birthing a Slave depicts the competing approaches to reproductive health that evolved on plantations, as both black women and white men sought to enhance the health of enslaved mothers--in very different ways and for entirely different reasons.

Birthing a Slave is the first book to focus exclusively on the health care of enslaved women, and it argues convincingly for the critical role of reproductive medicine in the slave system of antebellum America.

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About the Author:

Marie Jenkins Schwartz is Associate Professor of History at the University of Rhode Island.

From Publishers Weekly:

This remarkably researched and thorough book on pregnancy and childbirth among enslaved African-Americans demonstrates how the most personal and intimate aspects of slaves' lives were fraught with politics and power. Schwartz, whose previous work Born in Bondage explored the lives of children under slavery, draws upon medical records, journals, letters, and WPA interviews to recreate a slave's progression from conception to birth. Her access into this intimate world is stunning, and she provides rich, challenging accounts. She contends that planters and doctors used "biological science and learning to uphold power relations in the South," and indicts doctors for their complicity in white brutality on black women's bodies. In turn, black women used resistance tactics that ranged from birth control to midwifery in a struggle for control over their bodies and children. Though her thesis is familiar, the narratives Schwartz weaves create a vivid, highly detailed portrait of women's lives under slavery, in turns that are both chilling (the casual brutality of slave-owners) and awe-inspiring (the strength and bravery of the enslaved).
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Book Description HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS, United States, 2009. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. The deprivations and cruelty of slavery have overshadowed our understanding of the institution s most human dimension: birth. We often don t realize that after the United States stopped importing slaves in 1808, births were more important than ever; slavery and the southern way of life could continue only through babies born in bondage. In the antebellum South, slaveholders interest in slave women was matched by physicians struggling to assert their own professional authority over childbirth, and the two began to work together to increase the number of infants born in the slave quarter. In unprecedented ways, doctors tried to manage the health of enslaved women from puberty through the reproductive years, attempting to foster pregnancy, cure infertility, and resolve gynecological problems, including cancer. Black women, however, proved an unruly force, distrustful of both the slaveholders and their doctors. With their own healing traditions, emphasizing the power of roots and herbs and the critical roles of family and community, enslaved women struggled to take charge of their own health in a system that did not respect their social circumstances, customs, or values. Birthing a Slave depicts the competing approaches to reproductive health that evolved on plantations, as both black women and white men sought to enhance the health of enslaved mothers - in very different ways and for entirely different reasons. Birthing a Slave is the first book to focus exclusively on the health care of enslaved women, and it argues convincingly for the critical role of reproductive medicine in the slave system of antebellum America. Bookseller Inventory # AAH9780674034921

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Book Description HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS, United States, 2009. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. The deprivations and cruelty of slavery have overshadowed our understanding of the institution s most human dimension: birth. We often don t realize that after the United States stopped importing slaves in 1808, births were more important than ever; slavery and the southern way of life could continue only through babies born in bondage. In the antebellum South, slaveholders interest in slave women was matched by physicians struggling to assert their own professional authority over childbirth, and the two began to work together to increase the number of infants born in the slave quarter. In unprecedented ways, doctors tried to manage the health of enslaved women from puberty through the reproductive years, attempting to foster pregnancy, cure infertility, and resolve gynecological problems, including cancer. Black women, however, proved an unruly force, distrustful of both the slaveholders and their doctors. With their own healing traditions, emphasizing the power of roots and herbs and the critical roles of family and community, enslaved women struggled to take charge of their own health in a system that did not respect their social circumstances, customs, or values. Birthing a Slave depicts the competing approaches to reproductive health that evolved on plantations, as both black women and white men sought to enhance the health of enslaved mothers - in very different ways and for entirely different reasons. Birthing a Slave is the first book to focus exclusively on the health care of enslaved women, and it argues convincingly for the critical role of reproductive medicine in the slave system of antebellum America. Bookseller Inventory # AAH9780674034921

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