Calling the Midwife during the Blitz: Mothers and Midwives Laboring in Wartime Britain, 1939–45

Saturday, January 3, 2015: 9:10 AM
Concourse H (New York Hilton)
Sandra Trudgen Dawson, Northern Illinois University
The recent TV series, Call the Midwife has captured the attention of millions of viewers, fascinated by the stories of giving birth in post-WWII Britain. Little attention, however, has been paid to the experiences of midwives and mothers laboring during the long hours of night and aerial bombing during WWII. This paper looks at the women who assisted birthing during the blackouts, petrol rationing and deprivations caused by war. Drawing on sources from the Royal College of Midwives and articles from practitioners in the Midwives Chronicle and local and national newspapers, this study seeks to illustrate the way midwives operated; how they tracked down addresses on streets where the signs were removed to confuse potential invaders; how they found their way in the dark without street or bicycle lighting; how they tracked down laboring mothers who had been bombed out of their homes and placed in evacuation centers.  Calling the Midwife during the Blitz seeks to highlight the obstacles and the creative solutions women utilized to give birth during wartime. The study also sheds light on the way that the very intimate and private act of giving birth became a very public political problem in wartime.
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