Maternal Care for Mill Workers: Bombay and Manchester, 1900–40

Friday, January 6, 2012: 2:30 PM
Sheraton Ballroom V (Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers)
Lisa Trivedi, Hamilton College
This paper explores maternity and maternal care for women working in the mills of Bombay city, India, and Manchester, England as a means through which to reconsider ‘public health’ in the period 1900-1940.  In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the colonial government and native philanthropists increasingly employed discourses of maternal care to legitimize their authority either to govern the subject population or to oversee India’s modernization.  In both cases, proponents of maternal discourses characterized native practices among women as backward, superstitious, and in need of reform.  By bringing together materials drawn from government and philanthropic records, as well as those of hospitals in Bombay and Manchester that served the mill working populations, one can glimpse a surprisingly different picture of the maternal care choices of working women in these two cities. This particular case enables us to understand ‘public health’ not simply as a discourse of governmental bodies and elite authority in the metropole, but also as a site in which working-class women in British India may have secured better services. By tracing processes common to Britain and her most important colonial possession in roughly the same historical moment, this paper revisits the narrative of industrialization to emphasize a rich, shared history of modern industrial life.  
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