Midwifery

Content type
Collection
Cropped Excerpt of "The Creation" by Judy Chicago

A Victory for Moms and Midwives

by Dina Weinstein

In 2003, when the new head of obstetrics at the University of Chicago decided to close the nurse midwife practice, he said it was due to cost. For me and many other past and present patients...it also felt like yet another attack on women and our access to quality reproductive health. It seemed to communicate that women's comfort, and the personal services midwives provided, weren’t valued as a meaningful aspect of obstetrics.

Flora Suhd Hommel

As an early proponent of the Lamaze method, Flora Suhd Hommel helped normalize natural childbirth through the Childbirth Without Pain Education Association (CWPEA).

Hannah Sandusky

Called “the angel” and “the saint” by her patients, midwife Hannah Sandusky was remarkable both for the sheer number of births she oversaw and for the respect that male doctors granted her for her skills.

Alice Bailes

Alice Bailes joined the resurgence of natural childbirth in America both as a midwife and as coeditor of The Handbook on Home Birth.

Lena Barber

One of the few midwives to continue working in Baltimore after the 1924 ordinance that required they be licensed and registered, Lena Barber kept detailed records of hundreds of her deliveries.

Rosa Fineberg

Rosa Edelhurst Fineberg kept detailed records of her work as a midwife that shed light on the lives of Jewish immigrants at the turn of the century.

Elizabeth D. A. Cohen

Called a midwife and a “doctoress,” as she fought for the respect of her colleagues, Elizabeth D. A. Cohen became the first woman doctor recognized by the state of Louisiana and battled to save patients from two epidemics of yellow fever.

Sheryl Baron Nestel

Sheryl Baron Nestel’s activism in the childbirth reform movement led to her investigation of how race and racism affect healthcare.
Hannah Szenes circa 1940s

A Tradition of Taking Risks

by  Hannah Elbaum

In traditional society, men are seen as the risk takers, while women are supposed to be docile homemakers. When women step up to the plate, it stands out. To me, the women who bravely put aside their fears and take matters into their own hands are the ones who make the difference and are role models for all people.

In the Torah, there is a story of two women, Shifra and Puah, and the risks they took to save the lives of some children in Egypt. These midwives worked for the Israelites and took orders from Pharaoh, who knew the two of them and specifically told them to kill any male children born to Hebrew mothers, but they chose to not listen to him. It’s not clear if these two women were part of the Jewish people or if they were Egyptians. Still, their story takes place for a reason, not just to explain how Moses survived, but also to bring a lesson to future Jews about courage and the impact of the risks they take.

Mary Kobey and her Grandchildren circa 1905

Meet Miriam Kobey, “Denver’s Angel of Mercy”

by  Evelyn Becker

An Orthodox Jewish woman from Suwalki, Poland, Miriam (Mary) Rachofsky (Kobey) was an unlikely pioneer on the western frontier. Her passion for helping others led to a successful career as a midwife in Denver at a time when very few women ran their own businesses.   

Topics: Midwifery

History Next Door

by  Renee Ghert-Zand

New Yorkers know better than to bother an actor, celebrity or otherwise famous person when they see one on the street (or in a restaurant, store, or park – not to mention stepping out of a taxi).  As a New Yorker for fifteen years, I upheld this unwritten rule – even when it came to a famous neighbor.

Topics: Midwifery

Shiphrah: Bible

Shiphrah (more commonly spelled, "Shifra") is one of the two named midwives who serve the Hebrew women in Egypt and who contravene Pharaoh’s order to kill at birth all Hebrew males.

Shiphrah: Midrash and Aggadah

Shiphrah (more commonly spelled "Shifra") was one of the two Hebrew midwives (Shiphrah and Puah) who delivered the children of the Israelites during the Egyptian servitude. The Torah chronicles (Ex. 1:15–21) that they disobeyed Pharaoh’s command and did not kill the Israelite male newborns.

Puah: Midrash and Aggadah

Puah was one of the two Hebrew midwives (Shiphrah and Puah) who delivered the children of the Israelites during the Egyptian servitude. The Torah chronicles (Ex. 1:15–21) that they disobeyed Pharaoh’s command and did not kill the Israelite male newborn. Apart from this brave act, the midwives are not mentioned elsewhere in the Exodus narratives, nor in the entire Bible. The Rabbis identify the midwives with various Biblical heroines, thereby transforming them from secondary characters to central, fully developed figures whose annals spread over additional chapters of the Torah.

Puah: Bible

The first chapter of Exodus relates that, as the Israelites in Egypt begin to proliferate following the death of Joseph, the Egyptian king seeks to curb the Israelite population lest its numbers threaten the security of Egypt in time of war. When enslavement of the Israelites fails to achieve Pharaoh’s goal, he commands the Hebrew midwives, of whom only two are known by name—Shiphrah and Puah—to kill at birth all the male Hebrews, but to permit the females to live. Since, however, the midwives stand in awe of God, they violate Pharaoh’s command and permit the boys to live.

Miriam: Midrash and Aggadah

Together with her brothers, Moses and Aaron, Miriam is described in the midrash as part of a family triumvirate of leaders. Although, unlike her brothers, she did not have any formal position, the Rabbis assert that she contributed greatly to the redemption of Israel from Egypt.

Jochebed: Midrash and Aggadah

The midrash portrays Jochebed as a wise woman who was righteous and God-fearing. By merit of her good deeds, she gave birth to the three leaders of the Exodus generation: Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.

Elisheba, daughter of Amminadab: Midrash and Aggadah

Elisheba is mentioned only a single time in the Torah she-bi-khetav: Lit. "the written Torah." The Bible; the Pentateuch; Tanakh (the Pentateuch, Prophets and Hagiographia)Torah (Ex. 6:23), as the daughter of Amminadab, the sister of Nahshon and the wife of Aaron the High Priest. The Rabbis speak at large concerning her. They note her importance, since her life was bound up with the most distinguished families in Israel: her husband was appointed High Priest, her children were deputy high priests, her brother was nasi (chieftain) of the tribe of Judah and her brother-in-law Moses led the Israelites. The A type of non-halakhic literary activitiy of the Rabbis for interpreting non-legal material according to special principles of interpretation (hermeneutical rules).midrash accordingly applies to Elisheba the verse “And may your house be like the house of Perez whom Tamar bore to Judah” (Ruth 4:12), which was meant to signify that Elisheba, too, was descended from the royal line since she was from the tribe of Judah (Ruth Zuta 4:12). Commenting on Jacob’s blessing to Judah, “You, O Judah, your brothers shall praise” (Gen. 49:8), the Rabbis list Elisheba daughter of Amminadab among the important people and officials that were born to this tribe and call her “the mother of the priesthood” (Gen. Rabbah 97:8).

Sarah Shmukler

Sarah Shmukler—nurse, midwife and Second Lit. "ascent." A "calling up" to the Torah during its reading in the synagogue.Aliyah pioneer—is an outstanding example of Israel’s working women. Her death in Yesud ha-Ma’alah in 1919, as she battled a yellow fever epidemic, made her a symbol of the fate of the new woman of the Land of Israel, her creativity and her love.

Moshavah

The moshavah, the Hebrew version of what is known world-wide as a village, was the pioneer settlement type of the Jews in Palestine. It was based on private ownership of the land, one-family based agricultural homesteads and free patterns of marketing, consuming and economic organization.

Midwife: Midrash and Aggadah

Midwifery is regarded as a profession that entails a great deal of responsibility, along with numerous risks, both to the life of the mother and to that of the newborn.

Midwife: Bible

When the matriarch Rachel is giving birth to her second son (Benjamin), she is attended by a midwife (Gen 35:17). The presence of such a health care professional, called meyalledet (“one who causes, helps birth”), was probably routine in Israelite and pre-Israelite society, and the explicit reference to her in this case is not necessarily related to the difficulty of Rachel’s labor.

Medieval Ashkenaz (1096-1348)

The Jewish communities of Northern France and of Germany who constituted Medieval Ashkenaz were situated along the trade routes of the time. These communities were well known for their prominent and accomplished scholars as well as their flourishing businesses. These Jewish communities flourished during the High and Late Middle Ages (1050–1450) as urban centers grew and thrived and centers of Jewish learning expanded.

Sarah Lishansky

As Deborah Berenstein has written: “The nurses of the Second Lit. "ascent." A "calling up" to the Torah during its reading in the synagogue.Aliyah (1904–1914) integrated among the workers to treat, care for and fill the urgent need of many young people for someone to look after them. … The nurses won “recognition and appreciation for their care of their fellow human beings.” One of these nurses was Sarah Lishansky.

Lena Kenin

Popular myth suggests that during the height of her practice, Dr. Lena Kenin delivered at least half of the Jewish babies in Portland, Oregon. This joyful responsibility was not without challenges. As was more customary in the mid-twentieth century than now, expecting a child was a private affair. Most of Kenin’s patients wanted to keep their pregnancies a secret, but risked running into a friend or an acquaintance in the waiting room. Kenin designed her office so that patients could exit through another door.

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