The Persecution and Prosecution of Granny Midwives in South Carolina, 1900-1940
Bonaparte, Alicia D
This project is concerned with the abrogation of granny midwives in South Carolina from 1900 to 1940. Using exploratory qualitative analysis, I analyzed journal articles for persecutory comments or opinions and South Carolina medical practice acts and Sanitary Codes governing birthing work in order to note if and when midwifery regulations became more exclusionary. In this dissertation, I investigated physicians’ written advocacy for the elimination of the granny midwife in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and The Journal of the South Carolina Medical Association (JSCMA) for the presence of three themes: racism, sexism, and inter-occupational conflict. The presence of the racism and sexism themes were identified by explanations medical doctors and administrators created that utilized racist and sexist biases. The theme of inter-occupational conflict is identified within physicians’ statements in which grannies’ lack of formal education and their use of practices was labeled archaic or superstitious as evidence of medicinal ineptitude in an effort to ban granny midwives. I argued that their persecution and prosecution was due to the medicalization of birth by health organizations, officials and the legal system; the professionalization of American medicine; and the restructuring of American healthcare which created surges of inter-occupational conflict within the field of birthing work between obstetricians, general physicians, and granny midwives. I learned that physicians writing in these journals did not often condemn granny midwives using racist and sexist commentary. Rather, physicians offered an oblique condemnation of blacks and women by castigating the entire race and by defining themselves as heroes to the weaker female sex. Additionally, I learned that doctors used what some would consider improvements in midwifery care (e.g. midwifery education, midwifery supervision) as a means of reducing the number of midwives participating in birthing work. Lastly, my research notes that professional writings did not reflect a strategic effort to target black midwives specifically but rather substantiated doctors as veritable experts in birthing work.