Medical Arrogance and Ignorance in the mid-19th Century

In Shanty Gold’s mid-19th century time period, many women died during or immediately after childbirth from something called “childbed fever.”

 

Since this was years before Louis Pasteur discovered the existence of germs in 1888, the physicians of the day would blithely go from an autopsy to a

delivery room without washing their hands or instruments. Any suggestion that they could be part of the problem was met with arrogance and disdain.

 

When Mary Boland became a midwife, she asked Mr. Mendel, the brilliant apothecary owner who employed and taught Kamua Okafor,

if he knew of any way to lessen the incidence of childbed fever.

 

He told her of a Dr. Semmelweis in Austria who felt that cleanliness was at the root of the problem. He gave her special soaps and chlorine

and advised her to keep her instruments and hands as clean as possible.

 

This caused problems with the arrogant Boston Medical Association who felt threatened by her ability to deliver more safely than they could in the hospital.

 

Mary would not quit! Her birthing clinic, Kathleen’s Haven, opened in 1853.

 

 

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jeanne charters Jeanne Charters writes about the business of living your life to the fullest. Over the years through her magazine columns, books and blog posts, she has sought to help other women face life's challenges through humor, strength and perseverance.

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