The book Get Me Outdiscusses the history of giving birth, and how the various technologies to do so have changed drastically over the years. However, it is also clear that the history of childbirth has played a huge role in the fight to equalize the rights for women and men. In the early stages of giving birth, a woman’s only job was “…to get married, make babies, and… help her parturient friends…” (page xi). Now, women are fighting for equal pay in our jobs, jobs that women weren’t even considered for, and we are able to pick choose what sperm we want for our babies. We even have the possibility of a female president, who is fighting for the right for women to have the choice of whether or note to have their child.
“We’re always going to argue about abortion. It’s a hard choice and it’s controversial, and that’s why I’m pro-choice, because I want people to make their own choices.” -Hillary Clinton
After women were finally accepted as having the ability to be midwives (around the 1500s) male doctors tried their best to stop these women from taking their jobs, and attaining these jobs of power. However, many people realized that it would be easier if the doctor could see what they were doing, rather than feeling around under a sheet as to not be disrespectful to the woman in labor. So, many people turned to midwives for their at-home births, which were widely accepted until “…the doors of the new building of the Lying-In Hospital of the City of New York opened on January 22, 1902.” (page 63). This made it easy for men to take charge of giving birth, and pushed women away from midwives and births at home.
Drugs while giving birth also became widely accepted, despite the idea that birth was meant to be painful, and women were meant to suffer as Eve was said to have suffered, otherwise women would not be able to have the strength to care for a child. This, I believe was a very silly idea, and many women agreed. In 1914, one woman named Charlotte Carmody went to Germany, where she was the first American woman to receive the drug known as “Twilight Sleep”, a drug where women can forget all the pain of delivery, and wake to their newborn baby in their arms. This drug started a revolution, where women began to fight for their right to use drugs during their delivery, leaving the choice up to the women, not the doctors to decide whether the use of these drugs is necessary. Although many women did not understand the full procedure of Twilight Sleep (which involved tying the women down and more pain than they had previously thought), this idea contributed to the feminist movement.
Surprisingly, Doctors also contributed to this movement, without really realizing it. Coco Chanel even contributed to the health of pregnant women by designing loose clothing that women of all sizes could wear. Eventually, the image of beauty changed, removing “fetus-crushing” corsets from the equation. This improved both comfort of clothing for women, and made delivery easier, and resulted in healthier babies. For example, “Doctors said that well-fed girls did not get morning sickness.” (page 81) Large athletic women became symbols of beauty rather than the smaller, thinner women. This completely changed the fashion industry, eventually allowing women to be comfortable in their clothes, and lines of maternity wear were designed for pregnant women.
It is amazing to me that the technology of giving birth coincides so much with the feminist movement, and to this day, fighting for our rights while giving birth still means that women are fighting for their rights for equality. When we fight for our rights to abortion, we are fighting for the last few cents of our wages so we can be paid equally to men, or for our gender to be represented equally in leadership positions and politics. From Eve to Coco Chanel, giving birth has, and always will be a huge role in the feminist movement.