Midwife Problems, and Solutions, Part 2
This is part 2 of a series on the history of midwifery in the U.S. and Sweden. Click here to read part 1.
In Baltimore city, over 150 midwives delivered over 4,000 babies a year, and in every city and town in the U.S., you could find a woman delivering a baby, calling herself a midwife. But just like there were no regulations for doctors, there were no regulations for midwives. Why didn't the U.S. regulate the medical profession? And what did that mean for the health and safety of babies and mothers?
It's 1902. Two young girls are conjoined near the waist. A daring doctor decides to separate them and film it.
Yup, this is a story line in Season 2 of the Knick (y'all know I love it, check out my post about Season 1 here.) If you know anything about the making of the show, it's that they do a really good job of being historically-medically accurate, thanks to their consultants at the Burns Archive. It's a story line, but it's based on a real operation done by Dr. Eugene-Louis Doyen in France on two conjoined twins named Radica and Doodica.
Spoilers and graphic images below...
If you haven't watched The Knick on Cinemax, stop reading and start binging. (Then come back and read...)
The Knick stars Clive Owen as Dr. John Thackery at the Knickerbocker hospital in 1900 New York City, and it's good TV. He is based on the Johns Hopkins Hospital surgeon William Halsted, who was by all accounts a genius, but also addicted to cocaine with a bizarre personal life.
There are so many writing elements that make The Knick worth watching: characters with depth, good dialogue, a plot that moves and draws you in. And there are so many production elements that make it good: cameras that let in a lot of light so the set can have less lighting, making it feel more natural, and the extreme lengths the crew went to to make the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn look like 1900 New York.
What I like the best is how historical the show is. I spent one day last fall locked in the Chesney Medical Archives of Johns Hopkins staring at early photographs of the hospital and reading descriptions of the patient rooms and surgical amphitheaters. I came home that night and watched an episode of The Knick and my jaw dropped. The photographs came to life in amazing detail.
From the Johns Hopkins Medical Archives. L: Nurse administering silver nitrate to a baby's eyes while a nursing student looks on c. 1902;
R: The surgical amphitheater c. 1903.
Come in, the stacks are open.
Away from prying eyes, damaging light, and pilfering hands, the most special collections are kept in closed stacks. You need an appointment to view the objects, letters, and books that open a door to the past.