The King's Midwife : A History and Mystery of Madame Du Coudray

Item request has been placed! ×
Item request cannot be made. ×
loading   Processing Request
  • Author(s): Gelbart, Nina Rattner
  • Publication Information:
    Berkeley, Calif : University of California Press. 1998
  • Additional Information
    • Publication Type:
      eBook.
    • Abstract:
      This unorthodox biography explores the life of an extraordinary Enlightenment woman who, by sheer force of character, parlayed a skill in midwifery into a national institution. In 1759, in an effort to end infant mortality, Louis XV commissioned Madame Angélique Marguerite Le Boursier du Coudray to travel throughout France teaching the art of childbirth to illiterate peasant women. For the next thirty years, this royal emissary taught in nearly forty cities and reached an estimated ten thousand students. She wrote a textbook and invented a life-sized obstetrical mannequin for her demonstrations. She contributed significantly to France's demographic upswing after 1760.Who was the woman, both the private self and the pseudonymous public celebrity? Nina Rattner Gelbart reconstructs Madame du Coudray's astonishing mission through extensive research in the hundreds of letters by, to, and about her in provincial archives throughout France. Tracing her subject's footsteps around the country, Gelbart chronicles du Coudray's battles with finance ministers, village matrons, local administrators, and recalcitrant physicians, her rises in power and falls from grace, and her death at the height of the Reign of Terror. At a deeper level, Gelbart recaptures du Coudray's interior journey as well, by questioning and dismantling the neat paper trail that the great midwife so carefully left behind. Delightfully written, this tale of a fascinating life at the end of the French Old Regime sheds new light on the histories of medicine, gender, society, politics, and culture.
    • Subject Terms:
    • Subject Terms:
    • Related ISBNs:
      9780520221574. 9780520210363. 9780520924109.
    • Accession Number:
      45730872
    • Accession Number:
      42416
    • Publication Information:
      Print/Save 100 pages
      Copy/Paste Allowed
  • Citations
    • ABNT:
      GELBART, N. R. The King’s Midwife : A History and Mystery of Madame Du Coudray. Berkeley, Calif: University of California Press, 1998. ISBN 9780520221574. Disponível em: http://widgets.ebscohost.com/prod/customlink/proxify/proxify.php?count=1&encode=0&proxy=&find_1=&replace_1=&target=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=nlebk&AN=42416&authtype=sso&custid=s5834912. Acesso em: 13 ago. 2020.
    • AMA:
      Gelbart NR. The King’s Midwife : A History and Mystery of Madame Du Coudray. University of California Press; 1998. Accessed August 13, 2020. http://widgets.ebscohost.com/prod/customlink/proxify/proxify.php?count=1&encode=0&proxy=&find_1=&replace_1=&target=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=nlebk&AN=42416&authtype=sso&custid=s5834912
    • APA:
      Gelbart, N. R. (1998). The King’s Midwife : A History and Mystery of Madame Du Coudray. University of California Press.
    • Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date:
      Gelbart, Nina Rattner. 1998. The King’s Midwife : A History and Mystery of Madame Du Coudray. Berkeley, Calif: University of California Press. http://widgets.ebscohost.com/prod/customlink/proxify/proxify.php?count=1&encode=0&proxy=&find_1=&replace_1=&target=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=nlebk&AN=42416&authtype=sso&custid=s5834912.
    • Harvard:
      Gelbart, N. R. (1998) The King’s Midwife : A History and Mystery of Madame Du Coudray. Berkeley, Calif: University of California Press. Available at: http://widgets.ebscohost.com/prod/customlink/proxify/proxify.php?count=1&encode=0&proxy=&find_1=&replace_1=&target=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=nlebk&AN=42416&authtype=sso&custid=s5834912 (Accessed: 13 August 2020).
    • Harvard: Australian:
      Gelbart, NR 1998, The King’s Midwife : A History and Mystery of Madame Du Coudray, University of California Press, Berkeley, Calif, viewed 13 August 2020, .
    • MLA:
      Gelbart, Nina Rattner. The King’s Midwife : A History and Mystery of Madame Du Coudray. University of California Press, 1998. EBSCOhost, widgets.ebscohost.com/prod/customlink/proxify/proxify.php?count=1&encode=0&proxy=&find_1=&replace_1=&target=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=nlebk&AN=42416&authtype=sso&custid=s5834912.
    • Chicago/Turabian: Humanities:
      Gelbart, Nina Rattner. The King’s Midwife : A History and Mystery of Madame Du Coudray. Berkeley, Calif: University of California Press, 1998. http://widgets.ebscohost.com/prod/customlink/proxify/proxify.php?count=1&encode=0&proxy=&find_1=&replace_1=&target=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=nlebk&AN=42416&authtype=sso&custid=s5834912.
    • Vancouver/ICMJE:
      Gelbart NR. The King’s Midwife : A History and Mystery of Madame Du Coudray [Internet]. Berkeley, Calif: University of California Press; 1998 [cited 2020 Aug 13]. Available from: http://widgets.ebscohost.com/prod/customlink/proxify/proxify.php?count=1&encode=0&proxy=&find_1=&replace_1=&target=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=nlebk&AN=42416&authtype=sso&custid=s5834912

Reviews

Booklist Monthly Selections - #2 May 1998

Utilizing more than 1,000 official documents and letters culled from local archives throughout France, Gelbart, a professor of the history of science, has pieced together an episodic biography of the extraordinary Madame Angelique Marguerite Le Boursier du Coudray. In 1759 concern about declining birthrates and the high incidence of infant mortality in France prompted Louis XV to commission Madame du Coudray, a seasoned midwife and the author of a definitive textbook on childbirth, to "teach the practice of midwifery throughout the realm." Traveling to more than 40 cities during the course of her 25-year tenure as a royal emissary, Madame du Coudray was responsible for instructing a host of often reluctant physicians and well over 10,000 local peasant women in the art and the science of medically safe childbirth practices. The author analyzes the far-reaching social and medical consequences of her enormous undertaking. Gelbart's painstaking biographical detective work results in a fascinating personal and professional history of a long-neglected contributor to the advancement of modern obstetrical techniques. ((Reviewed May 15, 1998)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

LJ Reviews 1998 May

This is a fascinating book by a prize-winning historian (Feminine and Opposition Journalism in Old Regime France, 1987). Beautifully written and rooted in extensive archival research, it recounts the life and work of a Parisian midwife who in 1759 was commissioned by Louis XV to launch a nationwide crusade to professionalize midwifery. Worried about depopulation and informed by the spirit of the Enlightenment, the king named Madame du Coudray as royal emissary charged with traveling throughout France to teach the art of childbirth. Aided by a textbook on obstetrics that she herself had authored and a life-sized obstetrical mannequin also of her own invention, du Coudray taught in nearly 40 cities and reached approximately 10,000 students. This work vividly describes the details and difficulties of early modern childbirth as well as skillfully analyzing the meaning of du Coudray's politics and feminism. Facing political obstacles from hostile doctors, other midwives, and local religious authorities, du Coudray worked within the system to create a reputation and role for herself and the niece who would be her successor. Highly recommended for specialists in women's history, French history, and the history of medicine.?Marie Marmo Mullaney, Caldwell Coll., NJ Copyright 1998 Cahners Business Information.

PW Reviews 1998 April #2

This reconstruction of the life of a woman who began teaching midwifery courses in France in 1759 makes use of an unusual method: brief, dated sections describe du Coudray's activities in the present tense. It's a gamble, but it works. In Gelbart's skilled hands, du Coudray comes alive both as a historical figure and as a woman. While there are still holes in this history (and Gelbart openly admits as much), the material that is presented is absorbing. A description of a 1744 birth with bloodletting and herbal concoctions fascinates, both because of its strangeness and its familiarity. Du Coudray is said to have been responsible for the training of an estimated 10,000 midwives (counting those she trained personally and those in turn trained by her former students) over 35 years. She was also the inventor of obstetrical "machines," anatomical models made of leather encasing real pelvic bones (though later the bones were made of wood and wicker) that made it possible for midwifery students to gain hands-on experience. In 1759 she published a textbook on midwifery that Gelbart describes as France's first how-to manual. Gelbart, a professor of history at Occidental College in L.A., convincingly depicts du Coudray as a woman who saw her teaching as a kind of patriotic duty and through this portrayal, Gelbart reveals interesting glimpses of late-18th-century France. Jealousy and competition between midwives (who were all female) and surgeons (who were all male) are reported as early as 1743. Plus ça change. (May) Copyright 1998 Publishers Weekly Reviews

PW Reviews 1998 April #1

This reconstruction of the life of a woman who began teaching midwifery courses in France in 1759 makes use of an unusual method: brief, dated sections describe du Coudray's activities in the present tense. It's a gamble, but it works. In Gelbart's skilled hands, du Coudray comes alive both as a historical figure and as a woman. While there are still holes in this history (and Gelbart openly admits as much), the material that is presented is absorbing. A description of a 1744 birth with bloodletting and herbal concoctions fascinates, both because of its strangeness and its familiarity. Du Coudray is said to have been responsible for the training of an estimated 10,000 midwives (counting those she trained personally and those in turn trained by her former students) over 35 years. She was also the inventor of obstetrical "machines," anatomical models made of leather encasing real pelvic bones (though later the bones were made of wood and wicker) that made it possible for midwifery students to gain hands-on experience. In 1759 she published a textbook on midwifery that Gelbart describes as France's first how-to manual. Gelbart, a professor of history at Occidental College in L.A., convincingly depicts du Coudray as a woman who saw her teaching as a kind of patriotic duty; and through this portrayal, Gelbart reveals interesting glimpses of late-18th-century France. Jealousy and competition between midwives (who were all female) and surgeons (who were all male) are reported as early as 1743. Plus ca change. (May)