The Midwives of Seventeenth-century London

Another book for the Midwif collection, The Midwives of Seventeenth-century London by Doreen Evenden. She is an associate professor of history at Mount Saint Vincent University. Quickly flipping through, I noticed two appendices which are midwives’ oaths. The first is an oath made by a 16th-century midwife. The following lines stand out:

Also, I will not use any kind of sorcery or incantation in the time of the travail of any woman; and that I will not destroy the child born of any woman, nor cut, nor pull off the head thereof, or otherwise dismember or hurt the same, or suffer it to be so hurt or dismembered, by any manner of ways or means. (Appendix A) This very much echoes Londa Schiebinger’s reference from Plants and Empire.

While not connected to the above, this note regarding the baptism of a child who dies during birth or who is stillborn is also interesting in relation to the purity of water as opposed to the impurity of perfume:

And that in such time of necessity, in baptizing any infant born, and pouring water upon the head of the same infant, I will use pure and clean water, and not any rose or damask water, or water made of any confection or mixture….(Appendix A)

Appendix B is another oath from 17th-century that itemises stipulations numerically. Number 5 reads: you shall not in any wise use or exercise any manner of Witchraft, charme; or Sorcery, Invocation… This is followed by number 6 which like the previous oath disavows abortion by pledging that you shall not give any counsell, or minister an Herbe, Medicine, or Potion, or any other thing, to any Woman being with Childe whereby she should destroy or cast out that she goeth withal her time.

Doreen Evenden has sourced these appendices from Thomas Forbes book, The Midwife and the Witch, New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press, 1966. This might be another resource worth tracking down for the Midwif Library.