Jane Beal, PhD, is a writer, educator, and midwife. She holds a Certificate in Midwifery Mercy in Action College of Midwifery and a graduate Certificate in Narrative Medicine from Bay Path University. She has served with homebirth practices in the Chicago, Denver, and San Francisco metro areas and in birth centers in the US, Uganda, and the Philippine Islands. She is the author of Epiphany: Birth Poems and Transfiguration: A Midwife’s Birth Poems. She teaches at UC Davis and the University of La Verne in California. To learn more, please visit janebeal.wordpress.com and christianmidwife.wordpress.com.
Bas Relief of Scribonia Attica Attending a Woman in Childbirth
Midwifery Today, Issue 133, Spring 2020. Join Midwifery Today Online Membership Sometimes the history of midwifery is hidden in a tomb. This statement is not a metaphor for lost history; it’s reality. In the Isola Sacra necropolis in Ostia, a seaport of ancient Rome (originally situated at the mouth of the Tiber River but today located about four miles upstream) in Italy, lies the tomb of Scribonia Attica, a second-century Roman midwife. Her funeral monument is striking because it depicts the midwife herself, squatting on a low stool in front of a naked pregnant woman who is seated in a chair and supported by another woman from behind. The midwife looks out directly at the viewer of her memorial, while her right hand reaches between the laboring woman’s legs, perhaps to check the woman’s progress or to deliver her baby. The name of this midwife, Scribonia Attica, reveals a little bit about her. She shared her first name with the Scribonia family of ancient Rome as well as two famous women: the wife of Octavian, later the Emperor Augustus, who ruled during the first century CE (when Jesus was born); and the wife of Crassus, who was a first century CE Roman man of consular rank. The midwife’s first name was also the first name of her mother, Scribonia Callityche. The midwife’s surname, Attica, suggests that she was of Greek origin (Totelin 2019). Scribonia’s Greek origins are worth considering. The Roman Empire conquered the Greek Empire militarily (ca. 328–168 BCE), but in a sense, the Greeks subsequently conquered the Roman Empire culturally. Greek culture influenced Roman culture in terms of language, philosophy, religion, art, architecture, and medicine, among other things. Indeed, it appears that early first millennium, upper-class Roman families were often attended in childbirth by Greek midwives. Many ancient… Read more…. Scribonia Attica: A Second-century Roman Midwife
Read more…. Scribonia Attica: A Second-century Roman Midwife
Photo by Anna Gru
Drawing from extra-Biblical texts, Jane Beal writes about the Virgin Mary’s midwives and other details regarding the birth of Jesus.
Read more…. Zebel and Salome, the Virgin Mary’s Midwives: Doubt, Faith, and the Miraculous in a Medieval Legend
Photo by Lukasz Szmigiel
Poetry – The Crowned One by Jane Beal
Read more…. The Crowned One
Photo by Micheile Henderson
Almost everyone has heard of Hercules—famous for his strength—who performed 12 great labors and many other feats, including holding up the sky for Atlas and bringing Alcestis back from Hades (death) to her husband (life). Once there is a Disney-animated feature film about a hero like Hercules (Disney 1997), the hero’s name becomes familiar to many children and their parents worldwide. But few people know the name of Hercules’ mother, Alcmene, and even fewer know about Alcmene’s friend and midwife, Galanthis, who used her wits to defeat the goddess who was holding back the birth of Hercules.
Read more…. Galanthis, Alcmene’s Midwife: A Childbirth Myth of Ancient Greece and Rome
Lithograph | Joseph E. Baker [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Being a midwife in the early days of the US was a risky proposition—if you were considered to be on the wrong side of the church and had the bad luck to help deliver a baby with birth defects.
Read more…. Jane Hawkins: A Colonial American Midwife and a Complicated Birth
Painting | John Singleton Copley [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Ann Eliot (born Hannah Mumford or Mountford) was a midwife in Roxbury, Massachusetts, just outside Boston, during the Colonial era in America. After she died on March 22, 1687, her family, friends, and neighbors commemorated her life by erecting a special monument for her. In a unanimous resolution, they voted to do so: “Mrs. Eliot, for the great service that she hath done this town, will be honored with a burial there.” (qtd. in Gregory 1857, 27). At the time of her death, she had attended more than 3000 births.
Read more…. In Memory of Ann Eliot, Colonial American Midwife
One in three women in the US has experience childhood sexual abuse. This article provides information key to supporting these women during all parts of the childbearing year. Read more…. Supporting Sexual Abuse Survivors in Childbirth
Wellcome Library, London via Wikimedia Commons
Another of Jane Beal’s fascinating tales of the life of a midwife from the past, who faced the kind of violence we still see to this day.
Read more…. Mary Hobry: A Midwife and a Murder Mystery in Seventeenth-century London
This article describes painted, wooden birth trays of Renaissance Italy and how the tradition strengthened social bonds.
Read more…. “Desco da parto” The Birth Tray and Its Cultural Significance in Renaissance Italy
Wikimedia Commons—Nurul Hanifah
The goal of managing group B streptococcus (GBS) is prevention of maternal chorioamnionitis and neonatal infection (such as respiratory disease, general sepsis or meningitis). Careful management helps to protect life and health. There are various ways to manage GBS, which we can consider and apply appropriately in midwifery practice.
Read more…. Managing GBS
Others have made this point before, but it bears repeating: Female genital mutilation takes place in the developed world on a large scale in the form of medically unnecessary episiotomies and caesarean sections, or what could be classified as FGM Types 5 and 6. Read more…. Stop Cutting
Catharina Schrader, a midwife of Friesland (the northwest region of the Netherlands) practicing in the 1700s, had her doubts about the dignity of her calling. Socially, she was a member of the upper-middle class. She was the daughter of a tailor, yes, but her father served the royal court in Germany. Read more…. Catharina Schrader: A Midwife of 18th-Century Friesland