A Woman Cannot Do Better than Prepare Herself for a Nurse: Implications of Gender in Emergence of Obstetric Nursing in USA

Dr. Sylvia Rinker
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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
Stream: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Gender
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Dr. Sylvia Rinker

Professor of Nursing, School of Health Sciences and Human Performance, Lynchburg College

I earned PhD in 1995 at the University of Virginia with emphasis in history of nursing, and am currently a senior faculty member in the nursing program at Lynchburg College. I have published several articles on the evolution of obstetrical nursing and co-edited an anthology titled "Enduring Issues in American Nursing" that explores the historical issues of identity, power, authority, and knowledge development within the nursing profession (Springer Publisher, 2001). I serve as a member of the Board of Directors for the American Association for the History of Nursing. I have also taught a linked course with the traditional History of Western Civilization course that focuses on the role of women from ancestors dating from the roots of western civilization.

Ref: I06P0032