Thesis ID: CBB001560642

Slipped Away: Pregnancy Loss in Nineteenth-Century America (2010)


Withycombe, Shannon K. (Author)

University of Wisconsin at Madison

Publication Date: 2010
Physical Details: 244 pp.
Language: English

This dissertation explores how both women and doctors understood the process and results of miscarriage in America from 1830 to 1912. With an intense study of both women's personal papers and medical writings of the nineteenth century, I demonstrate how the construction of the meaning of miscarriage was never natural, easy, or inherent. Instead, nineteenth-century Americans responded to broader scientific and social considerations alongside more personal desires in how they understood and reacted to a loss of pregnancy. In the early nineteenth century, as the science of embryology began to gain professional and academic authority, American doctors embarked on new investigations of the human fetus, changing both the meaning and the importance of cases of miscarriage. In the wake of this new science that strove to standardize the human fetus, American doctor attempted to bring similar universal standards to the meaning of miscarriage. This study shows the limits of that influence, as women continued to make their own meaning of pregnancy loss dependent upon social and economic forces as well as their personal family situations. While women and doctors periodically worked together in endeavors to interpret miscarriage, primarily in terms of its causes, these two groups primarily fashioned meanings within separate factions. Doctors, in medical periodical journals, at society meetings, and within universities, strove to increase their influence over miscarriage cases, but also to use the results of pregnancy loss to ferret out answers to larger mysteries about conception and gestation. In turn, women, both alone and in networks of family, neighbors and friends, interpreted miscarriage in a variety of ways, bringing their own personal desires directly in contact with larger social constructions of American motherhood and womanhood. Through this investigation into miscarriage, this dissertation reveals the medical and social arbitration of personhood, the corporeal boundaries of motherhood, the limitations of the therapeutic revolution, and the everyday experiences of reproducing women in nineteenth-century America.


Description “Explores how both women and doctors understood the process and results of miscarriage in America from 1830 to 1912.” (from the abstract) Cited in ProQuest Diss. & Thes. : doc. no. 3436996.

Citation URI

Similar Citations

Book John D. Lantos; Diane S. Lauderdale; (2015)
Preterm Babies, Fetal Patients, and Childbearing Choices (/isis/citation/CBB649960596/) unapi

Book Schwartz, Marie Jenkins; (2006)
Birthing a Slave: Motherhood and Medicine in the Antebellum South (/isis/citation/CBB000771512/) unapi

Book Wolf, Jacqueline H.; (2009)
Deliver Me from Pain: Anesthesia and Birth in America (/isis/citation/CBB000951145/) unapi

Book Hobby, Elaine; (2008)
The Birth of Mankind: Otherwise Named, The Woman's Book (/isis/citation/CBB000950392/) unapi

Chapter Read, Kirk D.; (2010)
Touching and Telling: Gendered Variations on a Gynecological Theme (/isis/citation/CBB001220304/) unapi

Article Cormack, Margaret; (2012)
Introduction: Approaches to Childbirth in the Middle Ages (/isis/citation/CBB001231399/) unapi

Book Miranda R. Waggoner; (2017)
The Zero Trimester: Pre-Pregnancy Care and the Politics of Reproductive Risk (/isis/citation/CBB589678157/) unapi

Article Eugene Declercq; (2018)
Introduction to a Special Issue: Childbirth History is Everyone's History (/isis/citation/CBB684240441/) unapi

Chapter Sheridan, Bridgette; (2010)
Whither Childbearing: Gender, Status and the Professionalization of Medicine in Early Modern France (/isis/citation/CBB001220303/) unapi

Book Duden, Barbara; Schlumbohm, Jürgen; Veit, Patrice; (2002)
Geschichte des Ungeborenen: Zur Erfahrungs- und Wissenschaftsgeschichte der Schwangerschaft, 17.--20. Jahrhundert (/isis/citation/CBB000320072/) unapi

Thesis Craddock Mossman; Hannah Fletcher; (2018)
Fetal Attraction: Human Embryology in the Progressive Era (/isis/citation/CBB896650427/) unapi

Book Dubow, Sara; (2010)
Ourselves Unborn: A History of the Fetus in Modern America (/isis/citation/CBB001022741/) unapi

Book Reagan, Leslie J.; (2010)
Dangerous Pregnancies: Mothers, Disabilities, and Abortion in Modern America (/isis/citation/CBB001023264/) unapi

Authors & Contributors
Duden, Barbara
Schlumbohm, Jürgen
Veit, Patrice
Hopwood, Nick
Schwartz, Marie Jenkins
Nuttall, Alison
Medical History
Early Science and Medicine: A Journal for the Study of Science, Technology and Medicine in the Pre-modern Period
Canadian Bulletin of Medical History/Bulletin Canadienne d'Histoire de la Medecine
Journal of the History of Sexuality
Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences
University of California Press
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht
Harvard University Press
Johns Hopkins University Press
Oxford University Press
Obstetrics and pregnancy
Reproductive medicine
Medicine and gender
Mall, Franklin P.
Time Periods
19th century
17th century
18th century
20th century
21st century
United States
Great Britain

Be the first to comment!

{{ comment.created_by.username }} on {{ comment.created_on | date:'medium' }}

Log in or register to comment