A Woman Cannot Do Better than Prepare Herself for a Nurse: Implications of Gender in Emergence of Obstetric Nursing in USA
This historical study of the evolution of obstetric nursing in the United States provides insight into ways gender shaped the opportunities and constraints afforded nurses as the new profession of nursing evolved. Influenced by other social movements in the USA in the early 1900s, female obstetric nurses were recruited by physicians as "missionaries of the gospel of good obstetrics" to promote the recognition of obstetrics as a legitimate medical specialty. Acceptance of scientific interventions for birth required dispelling the view of birth as a natural event, and male doctors used nurses to provide the female connection needed to convice pregnant women to seek medical care. Eager to secure the acceptance of nursing as a legitimate profession, nurses willingly accepted medical responsibilities without decision-making authority, facilitating the use of new technologies before the consequences for patients could be known. The impact of a gendered definition of nursing continues to fuel conflicts about health care available to women.
Keywords: Obstetric Nursing History, Implications of Gender for Nursing, Childbirth History
Dr. Sylvia Rinker
Professor of Nursing, School of Health Sciences and Human Performance, Lynchburg College