Midwifery

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Collection
Cropped Excerpt of "The Creation" by Judy Chicago

A Victory for Moms and Midwives

Dina Weinstein

In 2003, when the new head of obstetrics at the University of Chicago decided to close the nurse midwife practice, he said it was due to cost. For me and many other past and present patients...it also felt like yet another attack on women and our access to quality reproductive health. It seemed to communicate that women's comfort, and the personal services midwives provided, weren’t valued as a meaningful aspect of obstetrics.

Flora Suhd Hommel

As an early proponent of the Lamaze method, Flora Suhd Hommel helped normalize natural childbirth through the Childbirth Without Pain Education Association (CWPEA).

Hannah Sandusky

Called “the angel” and “the saint” by her patients, midwife Hannah Sandusky was remarkable both for the sheer number of births she oversaw and for the respect that male doctors granted her for her skills.

Alice Bailes

Alice Bailes joined the resurgence of natural childbirth in America both as a midwife and as coeditor of The Handbook on Home Birth.

Lena Barber

One of the few midwives to continue working in Baltimore after the 1924 ordinance that required they be licensed and registered, Lena Barber kept detailed records of hundreds of her deliveries.

Rosa Fineberg

Rosa Edelhurst Fineberg kept detailed records of her work as a midwife that shed light on the lives of Jewish immigrants at the turn of the century.

Elizabeth D. A. Cohen

Called a midwife and a “doctoress,” as she fought for the respect of her colleagues, Elizabeth D. A. Cohen became the first woman doctor recognized by the state of Louisiana and battled to save patients from two epidemics of yellow fever.

Sheryl Baron Nestel

Sheryl Baron Nestel’s activism in the childbirth reform movement led to her investigation of how race and racism affect healthcare.
Hannah Szenes circa 1940s

A Tradition of Taking Risks

Hannah Elbaum

In traditional society, men are seen as the risk takers, while women are supposed to be docile homemakers. When women step up to the plate, it stands out. To me, the women who bravely put aside their fears and take matters into their own hands are the ones who make the difference and are role models for all people.

In the Torah, there is a story of two women, Shifra and Puah, and the risks they took to save the lives of some children in Egypt. These midwives worked for the Israelites and took orders from Pharaoh, who knew the two of them and specifically told them to kill any male children born to Hebrew mothers, but they chose to not listen to him. It’s not clear if these two women were part of the Jewish people or if they were Egyptians. Still, their story takes place for a reason, not just to explain how Moses survived, but also to bring a lesson to future Jews about courage and the impact of the risks they take.

Mary Kobey and her Grandchildren circa 1905

Meet Miriam Kobey, “Denver’s Angel of Mercy”

Evelyn Becker

An Orthodox Jewish woman from Suwalki, Poland, Miriam (Mary) Rachofsky (Kobey) was an unlikely pioneer on the western frontier. Her passion for helping others led to a successful career as a midwife in Denver at a time when very few women ran their own businesses.   

Topics: Midwifery

History Next Door

Renee Ghert-Zand

New Yorkers know better than to bother an actor, celebrity or otherwise famous person when they see one on the street (or in a restaurant, store, or park – not to mention stepping out of a taxi).  As a New Yorker for fifteen years, I upheld this unwritten rule – even when it came to a famous neighbor.

Topics: Midwifery

Shiphrah: Midrash and Aggadah

Shiphrah (more commonly spelled "Shifra") was one of the two Hebrew midwives (Shiphrah and Puah) who delivered the children of the Israelites during the Egyptian servitude. The Torah chronicles (Ex. 1:15–21) that they disobeyed Pharaoh’s command and did not kill the Israelite male newborns.

Shiphrah: Bible

Shiphrah (more commonly spelled "Shifra") is one of the two named midwives who serve the Hebrew women in Egypt and who contravene Pharaoh’s order to kill at birth all Hebrew males.

Puah: Midrash and Aggadah

Puah was one of the two Hebrew midwives (Shiphrah and Puah) who delivered the children of the Israelites during the Egyptian servitude. The Torah chronicles (Ex. 1:15–21) that they disobeyed Pharaoh’s command and did not kill the Israelite male newborn. Apart from this brave act, the midwives are not mentioned elsewhere in the Exodus narratives, nor in the entire Bible. The Rabbis identify the midwives with various Biblical heroines, thereby transforming them from secondary characters to central, fully developed figures whose annals spread over additional chapters of the Torah.

Puah: Bible

Puah and Shifrah were the midwives who defied Pharaoh’s orders and allowed Israelite women to birth their sons in safety. It is not clear whether the midwives were Egyptian or Israelite. They may have been overseers for Pharoah’s harem and held positions of honor.

Miriam: Midrash and Aggadah

Together with her brothers, Moses and Aaron, Miriam is described in the midrash as part of a family triumvirate of leaders. Although, unlike her brothers, she did not have any formal position, the Rabbis assert that she contributed greatly to the redemption of Israel from Egypt.

Jochebed: Midrash and Aggadah

The midrash portrays Jochebed as a wise woman who was righteous and God-fearing. By merit of her good deeds, she gave birth to the three leaders of the Exodus generation: Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.

Elisheba, daughter of Amminadab: Midrash and Aggadah

Elisheba is mentioned only a single time in the Torah she-bi-khetav: Lit. "the written Torah." The Bible; the Pentateuch; Tanakh (the Pentateuch, Prophets and Hagiographia)Torah (Ex. 6:23), as the daughter of Amminadab, the sister of Nahshon and the wife of Aaron the High Priest. The Rabbis speak at large concerning her. They note her importance, since her life was bound up with the most distinguished families in Israel: her husband was appointed High Priest, her children were deputy high priests, her brother was nasi (chieftain) of the tribe of Judah and her brother-in-law Moses led the Israelites. The A type of non-halakhic literary activitiy of the Rabbis for interpreting non-legal material according to special principles of interpretation (hermeneutical rules).midrash accordingly applies to Elisheba the verse “And may your house be like the house of Perez whom Tamar bore to Judah” (Ruth 4:12), which was meant to signify that Elisheba, too, was descended from the royal line since she was from the tribe of Judah (Ruth Zuta 4:12). Commenting on Jacob’s blessing to Judah, “You, O Judah, your brothers shall praise” (Gen. 49:8), the Rabbis list Elisheba daughter of Amminadab among the important people and officials that were born to this tribe and call her “the mother of the priesthood” (Gen. Rabbah 97:8).

Sarah Shmukler

Sarah Shmukler was a nurse and midwife who emigrated to Palestine from the Russian Empire during the Second Aliyah period. Her short life was characterized by providing medical assistance to migrant workers in Palestine and by close friendships with her fellow pioneers.

Moshavah

Women played important roles in the moshavot (villages), the pioneer settlement form created by the Jews in Palestine at its formative period 1882-1914. Various types of women in the moshava had significant roles in creating the “new Jew” of the second generation and in establishing and consolidating the moshavot.

Midwife: Midrash and Aggadah

Midwifery is regarded as a profession that entails a great deal of responsibility, along with numerous risks, both to the life of the mother and to that of the newborn.

Midwife: Bible

Midwifery is one of the oldest professions, and several biblical narratives refer to midwives. In addition, in one psalm God is metaphorically depicted as a midwife, delivering a person from danger. Israelite obstetrical practices were probably similar to ones known from other ancient Near Eastern texts.

Medieval Ashkenaz (1096-1348)

The Jewish communities of Northern France and of Germany who constituted Medieval Ashkenaz were situated along the trade routes of the time. These communities were well known for their prominent and accomplished scholars as well as their flourishing businesses. These Jewish communities flourished during the High and Late Middle Ages (1050–1450) as urban centers grew and thrived and centers of Jewish learning expanded.

Sarah Lishansky

A politically active nurse and midwife, Sarah Lishansky used her career to treat and care for workers in the Yishuv during the Second Aliyah.

Lena Kenin

Lena Nemerovsky Kenin made major contributions to both gynecology and psychology with her successful medical practice and her groundbreaking work on postpartum depression.

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