Midwifery, Musings against, London, 1751/1938

woman1919“There is still much prejudice I learn against the Interference of Surgeons in Child Bearing…. Women are strange creatures as has been known from the days of the Ancients. They still prefer the ministrations of some Poxy old Harridan and to have their brats in their own homes amongst a mob of squalling sister neighbours, saying that these our Hospitals are as the Jaws of Hell to swallow them up. But Lord how can some dirty fuddled Mid-Wife possess that knowledge of Anatomy without which the Art becomes a mere Empiric? And speaking at least for this my School the patients are well cared for; the sheets on the beds are changed once a fortnight and their night rails* once in a week, when there are enough of these for this to be done; and the floors are washed at least once in a month or so….”

-John Knyveton, The Diary of a Surgeon in the Year 1751-1752, claimed to have been edited and transcribed by Ernest Gray (New York: D. Appleton-Century, 1937), 46; entry for December 6, 1751, when Knyveton was in his first year as a medical student in London. Recent scholars have identified Knyveton’s diaries as most likely a lightly disguised early twentieth-century fiction in fact written by Gray himself around age 20, during his student days in veterinary surgery.**

*”night rails” were long loose garments worn at night by women; we might say “night dress”; apparently a  substantial version of “johnnies” supplied to hospitalized women.
**Martin H. Evans and Geoffrey Hooper, “Three Misleading Diaries: John Knyveton MD–From Naval Surgeon’s Mate to Man-Midwife,” International Journal of Maritime History 2014; 26/4: 762-788.
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