The European witch-hunt of 1450-1750 CE resulted in the executions of thousands of accused witches and also transformed the psychological, social and cultural landscape of Europe. One significant change is the decline of female midwives in the late 17th century. The ties between midwifery and witchcraft, though clealy highlighted in anti-witch literature and beliefs, have not been sufficiently explored by historians as a factor contributing to the decline of female midwifery and the subsequent rise of the man-midwife. Rather, historians have dismissed this connection, citing the low number of midwives tried for witchcraft, especially in England, the country studied here. Thus, historians have ignored the impact of internalized cultural beliefs that manifested in distrust and fear of female midwives. This slideshow presentation explains how expectations of midwives, witchcraft beliefs, and the practice of man-midwives interacted to ultimately undermine women’s role as midwives, leading to their replacement with male doctors.
Jennifer Sveda is a senior at Kent State Stark. She is a History major and is minoring in Art History. After she graduates, she plans to attend graduate school to earn her Masters in Library Science. Between school and work, she enjoys reading, baking, and making crafts.