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African American Midwifery in the South: Dialogues of Birth, Race, and Memory Hardcover – December 30, 1998

ISBN-13: 978-0674008526 ISBN-10: 0674008529 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 520 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; 1 edition (December 30, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674008529
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674008526
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #618,245 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Fraser, an anthropologist, documents the sad demise of the African American lay midwife. Using ethnographic and historical research methods, she chronicles the community health role of the southern African American midwife as well as birth norms within the community. She also documents the actions of the white medical, public health, and nursing professions to 'improve' birth outcomes; one such action included ridding themselves of the 'midwife problem.' Fraser focuses on one rural Virginia county during the first half of the 20th century, but she compares and contrasts her findings to research from other parts of the South, the North, and other places in the world. She reaffirms the well-documented medicalization of birthing in the US, but uniquely adds the exacerbating influence of race. Drawing on medical journal articles of the period, two sections establish the historical and political context and the accepted medical knowledge surrounding birth; a final section relates the recollections of the community itself, the midwives and the women who were cared for. Here the reader will learn much about the realities of qualitative research. Relevant to the obvious anthropological and health care communities, but also to historians and students of women's and African American studies. (M. A. Thompson Choice)

This book provides an important contribution to the literature on midwifery and reproductive health care. Fraser deftly weaves ethnography, historical analysis, and findings from many studies of midwifery, pregnancy, and birth experiences to make her arguments. But the appeal of this book goes well beyond its significance for the history, anthropology, and sociology of midwifery. Scholars interested in the complex interrelationships between sexism, racism, health, and health care will also find a wealth of interesting and provocative facts here. (Beth Rushing Health)

The book is highly original, includes important new research, and grapples with some of the issues at the forefront of anthropological theory. It speaks directly to an important and diverse set of audiences: scholars and students of women's studies, women's history, women's health scholarship, African-American studies, African-American health scholarship, and medical anthropology. It is a book which illustrates the complex intersections of gender, race, and class in the study of American society...This is a powerful, intriguing, and quite original book. (Rayna Rapp, New School for Social Research)

About the Author

Gertrude Jacinta Fraser is Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Virginia.

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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 25, 1998
Format: Hardcover
As this book is not available in stores or is even published yet, it is very difficult to find. I was in the lucky position to receive an advance copy from a faculty advisor. This is a very brief summary of what I have to say:
Fraser's exploration of Virginia's erasure of traditional African-American midwives is insightful and nuanced, reading the state's 1920's health policy between its lines. Fraser racializes the health policies which "retired" the African American community's most helpful and affordable care providers and thus exposes how far reaching prejudice can be. Not intended as a call to action for African-Americans as much as a historical exposition, the book is helpful for anyone studying the tension between modern and traditional forms of healing. Let's hope it gets through the publishing mill soon. END
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