You never know what you'll find in a box.
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?
Belair Aug 25th 1864
Today, Maryland is thought of as the Mid-Atlantic, with barely any relationship to the south. But the fact is that the state is south of the Mason-Dixon line, and before Washington, D.C. brought transplants from all over the United States, I've seen references to suburbs like Kensington and Silver Spring as being "sleepy southern towns." More importantly in the context of today, Maryland Emancipation Day, this was a slave-holding state, a fact that many people seem to forget when talking about Frederick Douglass, a fierce abolitionist who was enslaved and worked in the Inner Harbor of Baltimore City, or Harriet Tubman, a heroic Underground Railroad worker born on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. During the Civil War, the state also had
many southern sympathizers, including the man who shot Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth (like Annie Davis, a resident of Bel Air, Maryland).
"Slave Statistics," a record of the enslaved people in Maryland and their owners at the time of emancipation exists for some counties in Maryland, but not for Harford. I haven't been able to find anything else about Annie Davis in a brief search. I want to thank Mr. C.R. Gibbs and the Reginald F. Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture for the Maryland Emancipation Day Lecture, where Mr. Gibbs shared this powerful letter.
Friday is Women's Equality Day, and given Hillary's nomination, now seems about as good a time as any to see some images from the women's suffrage movement.
Everyone is in place, waiting. Money and honor are on the line. The gate comes up. Bang! They're off!
They are crabs; Chesapeake blue crabs to be specific. A crab race? Really? Yes.
In 1947, the town of Crisfield decided to host a hard crab race outside of their post office as part of a summer Fishing Fair, highlighting their seafood bounty. In Maryland, summer is synonymous with eating blue crabs out on a deck by the water, and Crisfield, located on Eastern Shore between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, is a town that revolves around watermen and fishing culture.
I came across these great clips from WMAR-TV's coverage of the 6th annual crab race via the University of Baltimore's archives, which got me to look into the history of the event a little more.
Peace activist and priest Daniel Berrigan passed away this past week at the age of 94.
He came into my consciousness as a member of the Catonsville Nine, burning draft cards with homemade Napalm in Catonsville, Maryland in 1968. I wrote a piece for UMBC Magazine on the documentary Hit & Stay by Joe Tropea and Skizz Cyzyk in 2013 (Joe and I are both UMBC grads, and UMBC is in Catonsville) -- check them both out.
At this year's 19th Century Banjo Gathering (Banjo Collector's Gathering), Pete Ross and I presented on Levi Brown.
Our research uncovered that there was much more to Brown's life than just making banjos, which make sense when you know a little bit about existing Minstrel-Era banjos.
If you know the name John T. Ford at all, it's probably because he was the owner of Ford's New Theater, "which acquired such unenviable notoriety as the scene of the assassination of President Lincoln," as one of his obituaries pointed out.
John Ford's life was much bigger than that one night in April 150 years ago.
The year that the Lying-In hospital opened, the only other hospitals for women in Baltimore were the Maryland Woman's Hospital (at 112 E. Saratoga St.) and the Maternite Lying-In-Asylum at 113 E. Lombard St., both associated with the College of Physicians and Surgeons. Part of the reason that medical schools opened hospitals was so that their students could learn by seeing patients, not just sitting in a classroom. Intern years and residencies were not officially part of the medical school curriculum yet. The Lying-In Hospital gave the University of Maryland, where Dr. Miltenberger and Dr. Neale were both graduates of and professors at, a perfect opportunity to help and teach.
"The large proportion of needy poor and unfortunates in every large city calls loudly for aid for simple charity's sake, while the benefits to the community, both present and future, from an institution where practical instruction at the bed-side could be afforded to advanced students, are self-evident." - First Annual Report p. 8
The Lying-In Hospital came at the advent of the new era of hospital. The wards were large, with high ceilings and white-washed walls. The beds were made of painted iron. The simple construction made them easy to clean. On top of the bed frame there were wire-spring mattresses, a relatively new invention that was much cleaner and hygienic than stuffed mattresses. Although they didn't have running water in the wards (Baltimore would not have a city-wide sewer system for another 24 years), polished-surface basin and pitcher were used for cleaning patients.
Another distinct feature was that both white and black people were attended to in the hospital. Johns Hopkins would become famous for serving all races of poor people a few years later, but the Lying-In Hospital was already doing it. However, the report does make a specific point that the two wards are separate from one another.
In their first seven months of operation, the hospital saw 62 women, 57 of whom gave birth. Two women died, most likely a result of postpartum hemorrhage since no cases of septicemia were reported. Four out of fifty-eight children died, a relatively low rate compared to national infant mortality, which continued to be as high as twenty percent in some areas into the 21st century.
I'll end with my favorite quote from the 1st report:
"All malt liquors, wines, spirits, etc., brought to the house shall be placed in charge of the Matron, and used only by order of the attending physicians."
A museum in blog form.
Come read the stories behind objects and ephemera found in private collections, archives, and museums.