Two Most Important Themes Related To Health In The 1800s And Early 1900's

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The two most important themes related to health in American women 's lives between the late 1800 's and early 1900 's are contraception and abortion. Both contraception and abortion would be a turning point for individual rights as well as medicine. Before the institution of medicine accepted birth control and abortion, women in general were regarded as housewives, child bearers and most served the local communities as midwives and healers to the sick. Even though midwives were highly regarded in their communities, their authority was still superceded by male doctors. Before the coming of abortion, the only way to dispose of a child was through the process of a craniotomy. It wasn 't until the mid 1900 's that American women would begin to …show more content…
Motherhood was defined as their destiny as they were designed as “keeper of the hearth, as breeder and rearer of children” (Rosenberg 335) and was an event in which the birthing mother 's friends, family and local midwife came to support her during child birth. The rural midwife was in charge of most of the local healthcare extending duties to prescribing medicine, nursing the sick and laying out the dead. Even though the local midwife had beside authority over her patient, she was still overruled by the male physician. Before antisepsis and antibiotics were used in the birthing process, 1 in 30 women died while giving birth. Due to scientific developments such as this, along with the women 's rights movement, the practice of medicine and care givers would begin to change by the end of the 19th century. No longer would women and men have to be “diagnosed and treated similarly” (Borst and Jones 24) as pioneering women such as Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell would begin to step into the field of medicine. Blackwell was the first woman physician to be educated in a regular medical college (graduating in 1849) and then establishing the first Womens Medical College to train other …show more content…
The Pill required regular checkups, monitoring and authorization for prescription refills, bringing a sense of empowerment to women by having them ask a doctor for prescriptions and later for a safer oral contraception and the information which follows it. Contraception was a mixed blessing in that it “relieved men of any responsibility for preventing pregnancy (such as condoms or withdrawal), leaving the burden entirely on the female partner”. (May 5) Depending on both society and the certain period in time, birth control was viewed both as family planning and population control. This changed depending on both class and race. Family planning allowed middle and upper class (usually white) families to space their children apart and later family planning would allow women to start careers earlier and begin marriage and families bearing children later. Population control would be pushed by eugenicists to keep the poor immigrants and blacks from overpopulating America. Eugenicists believed that by “curbing the fertility of the unfit”(May 38) there would be a reduction in poverty, starvation and disease which leads to war, distress and crime. Many organizations such as the NAACP and the Urban League were against birth control believing that it was based on the population control theory of the eugenicists. Marvin Dawes of the Florida Chapter of the

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