By Clare Hanson
Hanson explores the several ways that being pregnant has been developed and interpreted in Britain during the last 250 years. Drawing on a variety of assets, together with obstetric texts, being pregnant suggestion books, literary texts, renowned fiction and visible pictures, she analyzes altering attitudes to key concerns similar to the relative rights of mom and fetus and the measure to which clinical intervention is appropriate in being pregnant. Hanson additionally considers the results of scientific and social alterations at the subjective event of pregnancy.
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Extra resources for A Cultural History of Pregnancy: Pregnancy, Medicine and Culture, 1750-2000
However, it is too late to avert the ill-effects of this ‘maternal impression’. After a brief return to consciousness, Adeline relapses into a fainting ﬁt, and the day after the encounter on the terrace gives birth to a dead child. To an extent, this episode could have stepped straight out of a textbook of obstetrics as a warning of the dangers posed by unregulated emotion. It also seems to reﬂect dominant ideology in that Adeline’s suffering is presented as the direct result of her sin. Had she not lived with Glenmurray outside marriage, her perception of danger and hence the death of the child would simply not have occurred.
As in the case of Miss Burchell, the widow is presented as a middle-class interloper, reﬂecting contemporary fears about the expanding middle class. Such cases produced frequent territorial struggles between doctors and lawyers, in which doctors were on weak ground because they were unable to rule with certainty on the possible duration of pregnancy, which was often the critical issue. As Montgomery emphasised, ‘the purity of virtue, the honour and peace of domestic life, legitimacy, and the succession to rank, titles, and property, not infrequently depend solely for their invalidation or establishment on the settlement of this question’ (p.
39 It was the rise in the illegitimacy rate which caused concern among all classes, although the form that such concern took varied according to class perspective and social status. It was recognised that for very poor women the birth of an illegitimate child could spell disaster, and the situation of such women was sympathetically treated by women writers and the medical profession. This was particularly true of those who worked in domestic service and who would be sacked as soon as their condition became known, particularly if the father were the master of the house.