Voices of the Womens Health Movement, Volume 2

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Science and Technology. The criteria for selection of technology for women will include relief from drudgery - associated tasks, time saving, increased output and productivity, improved hygiene, energy efficiency etc. The Ninth Plan, therefore, accords high priority to research and development R and D for exploitation of locally available indigenous alternative sources of energy for use in the women-related household activities.

To undertake these types of R and D activities, more and more girl students will be encouraged to get into science streams with attractive incentives. Media and Communication. Violence against Women. Along with these, there will be widespread dissemination of information on women's rights, human rights and other legal entitlements for women, through the specially designed Legal Literacy Manuals brought out in Efforts will also be made to include legal literacy in the curriculum of schools, colleges, and other Training Institutes.

Gender Sensitization. The focus in this regard will be on both men and women within the family and within the community to change their negative attitudes and eliminate all types of discrimination against women and the girl child. In this process, both governmental and non-governmental organisations are expected to play a big role in utilising both mass media and other traditional means. Gender sensitization will be institutionalised within the government training systems through induction as well as refresher courses.

Specially designed gender sensitization programmes will be conducted on a regular basis with special focus on the State functionaries viz. Other initiatives in this direction include generating societal awareness to gender issues; review of curriculum and educational materials leading to the removal of all references derogatory to the dignity of women; use of different forms of mass media to communicate special messages relating to women's equality and empowerment. Legislative Support. The findings of the recent review of all the existing legislations, both women-specific and women-related, undertaken by the National Commission for Women will be examined to plug the existing loopholes through necessary amendments and enact new legislations, if necessary, to make the legislations as effective instruments in safeguarding the rights of women and the girl-child and ensuring gender justice.

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To this effect, the special mechanism of Monitoring the 27 Beneficiary oriented Programmes for Women was continued in the Eighth Plan. It envisaged that the women must be enabled to function as equal partners and participants in the country's developmental process. Achievements in both the women-related and the women-specific sectors during the Eighth Plan are listed below:. The same was further expanded to cover districts by the end of the Eighth Plan. Under the Prophylaxis scheme, Around 2. Under CSSM training, medical officers and para medical workers were trained till September, These services of child survival and safe motherhood, as revealed by various evaluation studies, have contributed significantly to the reduction of Infant Mortality Rate from 79 to 72; Crude Birth Rate from An extensive network of Community Health Centres, 22, Primary Health Centres and 1,36, village level Sub-Centres was in actual operation by to extend primary health care services including safe motherhood and other family planning services to women in rural areas.

To reduce prevalence of anaemia in pregnancy, the National Anaemia Prophylaxis programmes of iron and folic acid tablets distribution to all the pregnant women was initiated in Alternative strategies to control anaemia in pregnancy are being taken up as part of the RCH initiative. The implementation of the programme in the initial three decades was sub-optimal and IDD prevalence remained essentially unattended to.

Further, supplementary nutrition to the expectant and nursing mothers continued through the universalised ICDS programme and about 3 million mothers were receiving supplementary nutrition by the end of the Eighth Plan. Above all, the emphasis has been on the removal of the inequitous distribution of food and discriminatory feeding practices against women and the girl child.

Accordingly, efforts were made towards Universalisation of Elementary Education UEE which resulted in significant improvement in the enrolment of girls in schools and reduction in the drop-out rates at all levels. Another programme, viz. The same has increased to During , 78 more SC hostels for girls and ST hostels for the benefit of girls were sanctioned. Since Since inception of the scheme, Farm Women's Groups were constituted and training was provided to Farm Women in 7 selected States.

To assist women in agro-based industries, Women's Cooperatives were formed with per cent financial assistance from the Government. Under the programme of Operation Flood, rural women involved in dairy development on cooperative lines were given training in various activities relating to milk production, preservation and co-operative group formation. The percentage of women members has risen from about 14 per cent, a decade ago, to about 20 per cent in approx.

By the end of , there were 8, exclusive Women Cooperative Societies non-credit with a total membership of 6. Of the total Two schemes viz. Under PMRY, projects during the Eighth Plan period and 28, projects during were sanctioned exclusively for women. Accordingly, the number of women trainees also rose from in to 16, in During , 93 additional ITIs for women were sanctioned with a total capacity of women. The ultimate objective of all these efforts is to make women economically independent and self-reliant.

Some of the important initiatives thus undertaken in this direction include launching of programmes viz. During the Eighth Plan, the coverage of women under IRDP remained at 33 per cent with the number of beneficiaries touching During , the coverage of women under IRDP has reached 0. Of the total employment generated since inception under JRY during to , the share of women was During , the scheme of Women under JRY has gone up to About DWCRA-an exclusive programme for the development of women and children in rural areas - was extended to all the districts in the country during the Plan period with the sole objective of bringing about a change in the socio-economic status of poor women in rural areas through income generating activities and improvement of their access to services like health, nutrition, education, safe drinking water etc.

During the Eighth Plan, 1. In , additional SHGS were formed. Under NRY, women were given preferential treatment for skill upgradation and were provided assistance for setting up micro-enterprises, wage employment through construction of public assets and shelter upgradation. By March, , Neighbourhood Development Committees comprising primarily the urban poor women were set up in towns for extending basic services to 82 lakh beneficiaries. Similarly, women also received benefits under the Prime Minister's Integrated Urban Poverty Eradication Programme PMIUPEP which envisaged a holistic approach to eradicate urban poverty by creating a conducive environment for improving the quality of life of the urban poor.

During the Eighth Plan, cases of self-employment and cases of shelter upgradation were approved, besides setting up of Thrift and Credit Societies; Community Kendras, Neighbouring Groups; Neighbourhood Committees and Community Development Societies. Likewise, under the programme of National Old Age Pension Scheme NOAPS , elderly women of 65 years and above with no regular means of subsistence also received the benefit of old age pension to the extent of Rs.

Under another scheme of National Family Benefit, women could receive financial assistance of Rs. Of a total of S and T projects, which received financial support during the Eighth Plan, projects were meant for women. During , 30 additional projects were sanctioned exclusively for women. Besides, several policy initiatives were also undertaken in empowering women. Under the scheme of Condensed Courses of Education and Vocational Training, training courses were conducted to benefit 1.

Under the Socio- Economic Programme, more than Units were set up during the Eighth Plan to undertake a wide variety of income generating activities for the benefit of needy women like widows, destitutes, disabled etc. The Department of Women and Child Development being the National Machinery for Empowering Women in the country is made responsible for mainstreaming women into national development by raising their overall status on par with that of men. These programmes of innovative nature play the role of being both supplementary and complementary to the other general development programmes in the sectors of health, education, labour and employment, rural and urban development etc.

During the Eighth Plan, additional hostels were sanctioned benefiting women and their dependent children. In , 23 more hostels were sanctioned benefiting women. This has brought the total number of hostels sanctioned since inception of the programme in to benefiting about 57, working women. The scheme of Short-Stay Homes continued to provide temporary shelter and rehabilitation to the women and girls in social and moral danger. Details of the other two schemes viz. Till March , a total credit worth of Rs. About women received credit during Right from its inception, RMK maintained a recovery rate of per cent.

The programme of Mahila Samridhi Yojana MSY , launched in , promoted self-reliance amongst rural women by encouraging thrift and savings. For a maximum deposit of Rs. By the end of March , a total of 2. The scheme was launched in in ICDS blocks on a pilot basis. Till March, , Self-Help Groups of women were formed with services of both income generation and awareness generation, of which 21, women's groups were formed in Radio programmes with positive messages about the girl child and women were also broadcast on a regular basis.

It also set up Parivarik Mahila Lok Adalats and extended speedy justice to approximately women. The other issues taken up by the Commission during the Plan period included welfare of women prisoners and under-trials languishing in jails; women and children involved in the sex trade; reservation for women in Parliament and State Legislatures, Anti-Arrack movements etc. It also reviews both women-specific and women-related legislations and advises the Government to bring forth necessary amendments from time to time.

Open Adalats Public Hearings is the style adopted by the Commission to hear the individual grievances and to pay personal attention to the women in need. This special feature of the Commission has reached the judiciary to women at their door-step. This is the time when, even a small positive change yields long-term social benefits and even a temporary deprivation inflicts life-long damage.

Thus, the opportunities of early childhood development determine the present and the future human resource development of a nation. Of the total child population, While the children as a whole, require special attention of the Government, the three age-groups viz.

While Article 15 3 empowers the State to make any special provision in favour of children, Article 24 prohibits employment of children below 14 years of age in any factory or mine or other hazardous occupations; Articles 39 e and f lay down that the State shall direct its policy in such a manner that the tender age of children is not abused and children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and childhood is protected against exploitation and moral and material abandonment; and Article 45 provides for free and compulsory education for all children upto the age of 14 years.

In the initial years, the major responsibility of developing child care services had primarily rested with the voluntary sector, headed by the Central Social Welfare Board, set up in Later, the child welfare services were concentrated in the sectors of health, education, nutrition etc. Important measures include maternal and child health services MCH , primary education, supplementary feeding for pre-school and school-going children etc.

It was during this period that a National Policy for Children was adopted and a programme called Integrated Child Development Services ICDS was launched in with an integrated approach to extend a package of six basic services viz. The Eighties saw an effective consolidation and expansion of programmes started in the earlier Plans. The National Policy of Health adopted in set certain specific targets like bringing down the high rates of infant and child mortality and Universalisation of Immunisation etc.

The National Policy on Education emphasised universal enrolment and retention of children, especially the girl children. Special programmes were also launched for the welfare and rehabilitation of the Working Children and for other children in need of care and protection. A programme of Universal Immunisation was also launched to protect children from six major vaccine preventable diseases viz.

Diptheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio, measles and childhood tuberculosis. The same was further strengthened and expanded to provide universal coverage during this period. In the field of health, while the life expectancy at birth has gone up, as already discussed in the first part of this Chapter, the infant and the child mortality rates have declined sharply, with sex differentials almost bridged, as indicated in Table 3. Like-wise, the rural and urban differentials also continue to be very high. Similarly, the age specific death rate for age group has declined from But, the regional variations continue to be very high even today, with the highest being 37 in Madhya Pradesh and the lowest 3.

Except in Kerala, where the sex ratio is in favour of females, the sex ratio maintained the very same declining trend in all the other States during the same period. Female foeticide and female infanticide is mainly due to the strong preference for son and as such, these are responsible to a large extent for the ever-declining sex-ratio. Misuse of the modern technique of Amniocentesis for sex determination is an added dimension to this problem. Adding to this, is the problem of ineffective implementation of the Act of Compulsory Registration of Births and Deaths, which fails to provide information on vital statistics.

However, surveys conducted by the National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau, Hyderabad and have confirmed that there has been a declining trend in severe and moderate degrees of malnutrition amongst children, as per t he details given in Table 3. Vitamin A deficiency, iron deficiency and iodine deficiency disorders have been affecting children in various degrees. The national data indicate that although the proportion of nutritional blindness has reduced drastically, yet the sub-clinical deficiency of vitamin A still continues to be prevalent. Similarly, Iron deficiency is also prevalent amongst pre-school and school going children.

While the enrolment at the primary level has increased by about 6 times i. Table 3. While the slow pace of educational development of women is a cause for concern, the large inter-State variations, urban-rural and the gender differentials, high drop-out rates, especially those of the girls and other socially disadvantaged groups like SCs, STs, OBCs and Minorities magnify the problem. The population of the child workers has, no doubt, come down from In certain industries like carpet weaving, beedi-making, match box, fireworks, bangles-making etc, children are subjected to long working hours, poor working conditions, low wages, and occupational hazards which affect them adversely.

Of this, the number of child prostitutes has been estimated as 12 to 15 per cent. The religious practices of offering young girls to temples in the name of Devadasi, Basavi, Yellamma, Jogin etc. Efforts to meet the needs of Street Children viz. To this effect, the Ninth Plan reaffirms its priority for the development of early childhood as an investment in country's human resource development.

While the first six years are acknowledged as critical for the development of children, greater stress will be laid on reaching the younger children below 2 years. Efforts in the Ninth Plan will, therefore, be made to expedite effective implementation and achievement of the goals set in the two Plans of Action besides instituting a 'National Charter for Children' to ensure that no child remains illiterate, hungry or lacks medical care. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by our country in , also provides a strong base for initiating necessary - legal and other developmental measures for protection of the rights of the child.

These problems will be attacked through a two-pronged strategy of both direct and indirect measures. While the direct measures include effective implementation of the existing legislation, the indirect measures will be to change the mindset of the people in favour of the girl child, besides empowering women to exercise their reproductive rights and choices. In these efforts, both medical and para-medical staff viz. Special efforts will be made to ensure effective enforcement of the Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Regulation and Prevention of Misuse Act, and of the Indian Penal Code, with a close and continuous vigil, surveillance and severe punishment for the guilty.

In this regard, the present thrust will continue to be laid on the three major areas of child development viz. While the most critical period, from conception to two years of age, will be addressed through key interventions to promote health, nutritional and psycho- social development of the mother and the young child through the programmes of Reproductive Child Health RCH and the Integrated Child Development Services ICDS , the pre-school age will be taken care of exclusively by the ICDS through a six-service package and the school going age through various health, nutrition and educational programmes.

In this context, the National Policy for Children adopted in needs to be revised, in view of various developments that have taken place between and , including the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the adoption of the National Plans of Action for Children and the Girl child Accordingly, action will also be initiated to reconstitute the National Children's Board. The special drives of Pulse Polio launched during will be continued till the complete elimination of the problem of Poliomyelitis.

In all these efforts, special attention will be paid to improve the health and the nutritional status of the girl child and the adolescent girls as they both enjoy a lower status, when compared to their counterparts, due to vulnerability and discrimination. The quality and effectiveness of health and nutrition interventions for mother and the child will be further strengthened with a special focus on early diagnosis and prevention of malnutrition during pregnancy and lactation for mothers and children before and after birth with a special focus on the most crucial age of months.

Vitamin A, Iron and Iodine. In this context, the role of the Food and Nutrition Board will be redefined and strengthened in view of the mother and child- related commitments of the National Nutrition Policy and its Plan of Action. Efforts are being made for the development of new tools for Nutrition Monitoring and Surveillance to assess the nutritional status of children and mothers from time to time facilitating early detection of deficiencies and diseases and necessary interventions are taken to that effect. Towards this, special efforts will be made to develop linkages between ICDS and primary education.

These "operational linkages" will seek to reinforce coordination of timings and location based on community appraisal and micro-planning at grass-roots levels. Girls' education will be viewed as a major intervention for breaking the vicious inter- generational cycle of gender and socio-economic disadvantages. The effective expansion of day care services and linkages of child care services and primary schools will be a major input to promote developmental opportunities for the girl child for participation in primary education and support services for women. Thus, ICDS will continue to be the mainstay of the Ninth Plan promoting the overall development of the young children all over the country through its universalisation.

In this process, the role of an Anganwadi Worker will be that of a mobiliser of community participation and community contribution, apart from that of a service provider. In this context, there is an urgent need to strengthen the National Creche Fund to develop a network of creches all over the country. The programme for adolescent girls during the Ninth Plan will embrace the whole range of activities like health, nutrition, education, health and nutrition awareness and equip them with home-based entrepreneurial skills, vocational training and decision-making capabilities etc.

Capacity Building In the field of child development, the major challenge in the Ninth Plan will be to achieve increased community ownership and qualitative improvement of child development programmes. Priority will be accorded to strengthen the knowledge, skills and capabilities of front- line workers as mobilisers of convergent action. Thus, the major thrust would be to develop decentralised training strategies with innovative ground- based approaches. The principles enunciated above and the envisaged role of the Panchayati Raj Institutions and Urban Local Bodies will have major implications not only in planning but also in the control of the flow of funds for the programmes of child development.

Elimination of Discrimination Against the Girl Child. Long-term measures will also be initiated to put an end to all forms of discrimination against the girl child through providing special incentives to the mother and the girl child so that the birth of a girl child is welcomed and the family is assured of State's support for the future of the Girl Child. To this effect, a special package for the girl children belonging to the families living below the poverty line was launched on 2 October, with special incentives namely - Rs.

Lessons learnt from the implementation of this Special Package for the Girl Child and similar initiatives launched by some of the State Governments viz. Child Labour. Working Children Child Labour. Child Sex Workers Child Prostitution. Street Children. To this effect, strong regulatory and administrative measures to prevent exploitation of child labour will also be taken up. The enforcement measures of Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act, will be further strengthened at all levels. Also, the enforcement of the National Policy on Child Labour will be given a fresh look to make it more effective.

And we can listen to the voices of young activists who help us to understand the new issues we face today. So many of my friends recall sitting in rooms where secrets were shared among women. Typically any shameful feelings we may have had lifted as we learned that our private experiences often turned out to be universal. His pelvic exams are so rough it hurts. Do women talk less to each other now than they did then? The very possibility is troubling. If I have a single hope for this book it is that the women who read it be inspired to talk among themselves about health, since women who talk to each other about health will go on to talk to each other about anything and everything.

At the turn of the millennium, a Barnard College senior asked Judy Norsigian of Our Bodies, Ourselves what she hopes to see when the continuously updated volume celebrates its fiftieth anniversary in the year And using technology in the most appropriate way—that. But in order for that to be possible, they must have information from a trustworthy source. But if there is one quality we should all be looking for in our doctors, it is the willingness to listen seriously to their patients. And all around me were women who had been a part of it—suffragettes who organized and protested for the vote.

Other books by Barbara Seaman

My aunt, Gertrude Weil Klein, was a union rabble-rouser from way back who went to jail with Eugene V. When I was a child she would always marvel at how I thought women voting was normal. My stepmother Ruth Gruber was one of these women. At the age of twenty she became the youngest person in the world to hold a PhD, and only a few years later the first American reporter of any gender to be allowed to enter the Soviet Arctic.

Betty had grown up reading stories about ambitious young women who did great things—often in the city, and often involving a career in journalism. This character disappeared after World War II to be replaced by domestic goddesses and suburban royalty. And neither was the energy and widespread desire to expand rights and options for women. Both kinds of women are so important—the generations of movement women, who come 5. There is continuity between generations of determined folks working for basic equality and dignity for all people.

The memory of courageous individuals is part of this; it perpetuates possibility, and it opens up space for the new generation to find the issues that connect them with the past as well as the ones that are distinctly theirs. It also lets them know that achieving change is possible through example. Reprinted by permission. Care of the sick was part of the domestic economy for which the wife assumed responsibility. Patients could be bled until unconscious and given heavy doses of the cathartic calomel mercurous chloride until they salivated.

They were the unlicensed doctors and anatomists of Western history. They were abortionists, nurses, and counselors. They were pharmacists, cultivating healing herbs and exchanging the secrets of their uses. They were midwives, traveling from home to home and village to village. For centuries women were doctors without degrees, barred from books and lectures, learning from each other, and passing on experience from neighbor to neighbor and mother to daughter.

Medicine is part of our heritage as women, our history, and our birthright. Today, however, health care is the property of. Ninety-three percent of the doctors in the United States are men; and almost all the top directors and administrators of health institutions. Women are still in the overall majority—70 percent of health workers are women— but we have been incorporated as workers into an industry where the bosses are men.

We are no longer independent practitioners, known by our own names, for our own work. We are, for the most part, institutional fixtures, filling faceless job slots: clerk, dietary aide, technician, and maid. When we are allowed to participate in the healing process, we can do so only as nurses. Our subservience is reinforced by our ignorance, and our ignorance is enforced. Nurses are taught not to question, not to challenge.

We are told that our subservience is biologically ordained: women are inherently nurse-like and not doctor-like. Sometimes we even try to console ourselves with the theory that we were defeated by anatomy before we were defeated by men, that women have been so trapped by the cycles of menstruation and reproduction that they have never been free and creative agents outside their homes. Another myth, fostered by conventional medical histories, is that male professionals won out on the strength of their superior technology.

Women have been autonomous healers, often the only healers for women and the poor. And we found, in the periods we have studied, that, if anything, it was the male professionals who clung to untested doctrines and ritualistic practices—and it was the woman healers who represented a more humane, empirical approach to healing.

In this pamphlet we have asked: How did we arrive at our present position of subservience from our former position of leadership? It was an active takeover by male professionals. And it was not science that enabled men to win out: The critical battles took place long before the development of modern scientific technology. The stakes of the struggle were high: Political and economic monopolization of medicine meant control over its institutional organizations, its theory and practice, its profits and prestige.

The suppression of female healers by the medical establishment was a political struggle, first, in that it is part of the history of sex struggle in general. The status of women healers has risen and fallen with the status of women. When women healers were attacked, they were attacked as women; when they fought back, they fought back in solidarity with all women. It was a political struggle, second, in that it.

Male professionals, on the other hand, served the ruling class—both medically and politically. Their interests have been advanced by the universities, the philanthropic foundations, and the law. They owe their victory not so much to their own efforts, but to the intervention of the ruling class they served. This pamphlet represents a beginning of the research which will have to be done to recapture our history as health workers. We confined ourselves to Western history, since the institutions we confront today are the products of Western civilization.

We are far from being able to present a complete chronological history. Instead, we looked at two separate, important phases in the male takeover of health care: the suppression of witches in medieval Europe, and the rise of the male medical profession in nineteenth-century America. To know our history is to begin to see how to take up the struggle again.

The other side of the suppression of witches as healers was the creation of a new male medical profession, under the protection and patronage of the ruling classes. This new European medical profession played an important role in the witch-. This early and devastating exclusion of women from independent healing roles was a violent precedent and warning: It was to become a theme of our history.

Witches represented a political, religious, and sexual threat to the Protestant and Catholic churches alike, as well as to the state. The extent of the witch craze is startling: In the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries there were thousands upon thousands of executions— usually live burnings at the stake—in Germany, Italy, and other countries.

In the mid-sixteenth century the terror spread to France, and finally to England. Nine hundred witches were destroyed in a single year in the Wertzberg area, and 1, in and around Como. At Toulouse, were put to death in a day. In the Bishopric of Trier, in , two villages were left with only one female inhabitant each.


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Many writers have estimated the total number killed to have been in the millions. Women made up some 85 percent of those executed—old women, young women, and children. In locale and timing, the most virulent witch-hunts were associated with periods of great social upheaval shaking feudalism at its roots—mass peasant uprisings and conspiracies, the beginnings of capitalism, the rise of Protestantism.

There is fragmentary evidence—which feminists ought to follow up—suggesting that in some areas witchcraft represented a female-led peasant rebellion. Unfortunately, the witch herself—poor and illiterate—did not leave us her story. It was recorded, like all history, by the educated elite, so today we know the witch only through the eyes of her persecutors. Two of the most common theories of the witchhunts are basically medical interpretations, attributing the witch craze to unexplainable outbreaks of mass hysteria. One version has it that the peasantry went mad.

According to this, the witch craze was an epidemic of mass hatred and panic cast in images of a blood-lusty peasant bearing flaming torches. Another psychiatric interpretation holds that the witches themselves were insane. But, in fact, the witch craze was neither a lynching party nor a mass suicide by hysterical women. Rather, it followed well-ordered, legalistic procedures. The witch-hunts were well-organized campaigns, initiated, financed, and executed by church and state. For three centuries this sadistic book lay on the bench of every judge, every witchhunter.

Anyone failing to report a witch faced both excommunication and a long list of temporal punishments. Kramer and Sprenger gave detailed instructions about the use of tortures to force confessions and further accusations. The point is obvious: The witch craze did not arise spontaneously in the peasantry. It was a calculated ruling-class campaign of terrorization. Three central accusations emerge repeatedly in the history of witchcraft throughout northern Europe: First, witches are accused of every conceivable sexual crime against men.

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Second, they are. These trials occurred on a relatively small scale, very late in the history of witch-hunts, and in an entirely different social context than the earlier European witch craze. Third, they are accused of having magical powers affecting health—of harming, but also of healing. They were often charged specifically with possessing medical and obstetrical skills. First, consider the charge of sexual crimes. The homunculus is not really safe, however, until it reaches male hands again, when a priest baptizes it, ensuring the salvation of its immortal soul.

Another depressing fantasy of some medieval religious thinkers was that upon resurrection all human beings would be reborn as men! The church associated women with sex, and all pleasure in sex was condemned, because it could only come from the devil. Witches were supposed to have gotten pleasure from copulation with the devil despite the icy-cold organ he was reputed to possess and they in turn infected men.

Lust in either man or wife, then, was blamed on the female. On the other hand, witches were accused of making men impotent and of causing their penises to disappear. As for female sexuality, witches were accused, in effect, of giving contraceptive aid and of performing abortions: Now there are, as it is said in the Papal Bull, seven methods by which they infect with witchcraft the venereal act and the conception of the womb: First, by inclining the minds of men to inordinate passion; second, by obstructing their generative force; third, by removing the members accommodated to that act; fourth, by changing men into beasts by their magic act; fifth, by destroying the generative in women;.

Her career began with sexual intercourse with the devil. In return for her powers, the witch promised to serve him faithfully. In the imagination of the church even evil could only be thought of as ultimately male-directed! As the Malleus makes clear, the devil almost always acts through the female, just as he did in Eden: All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which in women is insatiable.

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Wherefore for the sake of fulfilling their lusts they consort with devils. And blessed be the Highest Who has so far preserved the male sex from so great a crime. Not only were the witches women, they were women who seemed to be organized into an enormous secret society. Bestialism and mass orgies? So went their lurid speculations. In fact, there is evidence that women accused of being witches did meet locally in small groups and that these groups came together in crowds of hundreds or thousands on festival days.

Some writers speculate that the meetings were occasions for trading herbal lore and passing on the news. Any peasant organization, just being an organization, would attract dissidents, increase communication between villages, and build a spirit of collectivity and autonomy among the peasants. The witch is accused not only of murdering and poisoning, sex crimes and conspiracy, but of helping and healing.

Witch-healers were often the only general medical practitioners for a people who had no doctors and no hospitals and who were bitterly afflicted with poverty and disease. When faced with the misery of the poor, the church turned to the dogma that experience in this world is fleeting and unimportant. But there was a double standard at work, for the church was not against medical care for the upper class. Kings and nobles had their court physicians, who were men, sometimes even priests.

The real issue was control: Male upper-class healing under the auspices of the church was acceptable; female healing as part of a peasant subculture was not. The church saw its attack on peasant healers as an attack on magic, not medicine. The devil was believed to have real power on earth, and the use of that power by peasant women—whether for good or evil—was frightening to the church and state. Magic charms were thought to be at least as effective as prayer in healing the sick, but prayer was church-sanctioned and controlled while incantations and charms were not.

Thus magic cures, even when successful, were an accused interference with the will of God, achieved. The wise woman, or witch, had a host of remedies which had been tested in years of use. Many of the herbal remedies developed by witches still have their place in modern pharmacology. They had painkillers, digestive aids, and anti-inflammatory agents. Ergot derivatives are the principal drugs used today to hasten labor and aid in the recovery from childbirth.


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Belladonna—still used today as an antispasmodic—was used by the witch-healers to inhibit uterine contractions when miscarriage threatened. Digitalis, still an important drug in treating heart ailments, is said to have been discovered by an English witch. Her attitude was not religiously passive, but actively inquiring. She trusted her ability to find ways to deal with disease, pregnancy, and childbirth— whether through medications or charms.

In short, her magic was the science of her time. The church, by contrast was deeply anti-empirical. It discredited the value of the material world and had a profound distrust of the senses. There was no point in looking for natural laws that govern physical phenomena, for the world is created anew by God in every instant.

Kramer and Sprenger, in the Malleus, quote St. Augustine on the deceptiveness of the senses: Now the motive of the will is something perceived through the senses or the intellect, both of which are subject to the power of the devil. In the persecution of the witch, the anti-empiricist and misogynist antisexual obsessions of the church coincide: Empiricism and sexuality both represent a surrender to the senses, a betrayal of faith. The witch was a triple threat to the church: She was a woman, and not ashamed of it. She appeared to be part of an organized underground of peasant women.

And she was a healer whose practice was based in empirical study. In the face of the repressive fatalism of Christianity, she held out the hope of change in this world. While witches practiced among the people, the ruling classes were cultivating their own breed of secular healers: the university-trained physicians.

The medical profession was actively engaged in the elimination of female healers—their exclusion from the universities, for example—long before the witchhunts began. For eight long centuries, from the fifth to the thirteenth, the otherworldly, antimedical stance of the church had stood in the way of the development of medicine as a respectable profession. Then, in the thirteenth century, there was a revival of learning, touched off by contact with the Arab world.

Medical schools appeared in the universities, and more and more young men of means sought medical training. The church imposed strict controls on the new profession, and allowed it to develop only within the terms set by Catholic doctrine. University-trained physicians were not permitted to practice without calling in a priest to aid and advise them, or to treat a patient who refused confession.

By the fourteenth century their practice was in demand among the wealthy,. In fact, accounts of their medical training make it seem more likely that they jeopardized the body. While a student, a doctor rarely saw any patients at all, and no experimentation of any kind was taught. Medicine was sharply differentiated from surgery, which was almost everywhere considered a degrading, menial craft, and the dissection of bodies was almost unheard of. Confronted with a sick person, the universitytrained physician had little to go on but superstition. Bleeding was a common practice, especially in the case of wounds.

Leeches were applied according to the time, the hour, the air, and other similar considerations. For example, nasturtium, mustard, and garlic produced reddish bile; lentils, cabbage, and the meat of old goats and beeves begot black bile. With few exceptions, the universities were closed to women even to upperclass women who could afford them , and licensing laws were established to prohibit all but university-trained doctors from practice. It was impossible to enforce the licensing laws consistently since there was only a handful of university-trained doctors compared to the great mass of lay healers.

But the laws could be used selectively. Their first target was not the peasant healer, but the better-off, literate woman healer who competed for the same urban clientele as that of the university-trained doctors. That her patients were well off is evident from the fact that as they testified in court they had consulted well-known university-trained physicians before turning to her. The primary accusations brought against her were that. She would visit the sick assiduously and continue to examine the urine in the manner on physicians, feel the pulse, and touch the body and limbs.

Six witnesses affirmed that Jacoba had cured. But these testimonials were used against her, for the charge was not that she was incompetent, but that—as a woman— she dared to cure at all. Male doctors had won a clear monopoly over the practice of medicine among the upper classes except for obstetrics, which remained the province of female midwives even among the upper classes for another three centuries. He was asked to make judgments about whether certain women were witches and whether certain afflictions had been caused by witchcraft.

The trial in one stroke established the male physician. It placed him on the side of God and law, a professional on par with lawyers and theologians, while it placed her on the side of darkness, evil, and magic. He owed his new status not to medical school or scientific achievements of his own, but to the church and state he served so well. So thoroughly was she discredited among the emerging middle classes that in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries it was possible for male practitioners to make serious inroads into that last preserve of female healing—midwifery.

The forceps were legally classified as a surgical instrument, and women were legally barred from surgical practice. In the hands of the barber-surgeons, obstetrical practice among the middle class was quickly transformed from a neighborly service into a lucrative business, which real physicians entered in force in the late eighteenth century. Female midwives in England organized and charged the male intruders with commercialism and dangerous misuse of the forceps.

By the turn of the century, medicine here was closed to all but a tiny minority of necessarily tough and well-heeled women. What was left was nursing, and this was in no way a substitute for the autonomous roles women had enjoyed as midwives and general healers. To put it another way: How did one particular set of healers, who happened to be male, white, and middle-class, manage to oust all the competing folk healers, midwives, and other practitioners who had dominated the American medical scene in the early s?

The conventional answer given by medical historians is, of course, that there always was one true American medical profession—a small band of men whose scientific and moral authority flowed in a unbroken stream from Hippocrates, Galen, and the great European medical scholars. In frontier America these doctors had to combat not only the routine problems of sickness and death but the abuses of a host of lay practitioners—usually depicted as women, ex-slaves, Indians, and drunken patent medicine salesmen.

But the real answer is not in this made-up drama of science versus ignorance and superstition. The set of healers who became the medical profession was distinguished not so much by its associations with modern science as by its associations with the emerging American business establishment. With all due respect to Pasteur, Koch, and the other great European medical researchers of the nineteenth century, it was the Carnegies and the Rockefellers who intervened to secure the final victory of the American medical profession.

In western Europe, university-trained physicians already had a centuries-old monopoly over the right to heal. But in America, medical practice was traditionally open to anyone who could demonstrate healing skills—regardless of formal training, race, or sex. Or a woman might go into practice after developing skills through caring for family members or through an apprenticeship with a relative or other established healer.

By , fashion even dictated that upper- and middle-class women employ male regular doctors for obstetrical care—a custom which plainer people regarded as grossly indecent. In terms of medical skills and theory, the socalled regulars had nothing to recommend them over the lay practitioners. Not that serious academic training would have helped much anyway—there was no body of medical science to be trained in. The European medical profession had little better to offer at this time. The lay practitioners were undoubtedly safer and more effective than the regulars.

They preferred mild herbal medications, dietary changes, and hand-holding to heroic interventions. Left alone, they might well have displaced the regular doctors with even middle-class consumers in time. The regulars, with their close ties to the upper class, had legislative clout. It was a premature move. There was not popular support for the idea of medical professionalism, much less for the particular set of healers who claimed it.

And there was no way to enforce the new laws. The trusted healers of the common people could not just be legislated out of practice. Worse still for the regulars, this early grab for medical monopoly inspired mass indignation in the form of a radical, popular health movement which came close to smashing medical elitism in America once and for all. In reality it was the medical front of a general social. Women were the backbone of the popular health movement.

The movement ran up the banner for frequent bathing regarded as a vice by many regular doctors of the time , loose-fitting female clothing, whole-grain cereals, temperance, and a host of other issues women could relate to. The new sects set up their. In fact, leaders of both groups used the prevailing sex stereotypes to argue that women were even better equipped to be doctors than men. However, he felt surgery and the care of males should be reserved for male practitioners. With tenfold more plausibility and reason we say it is the appropriate sphere for woman, and hers alone.

For example, Harriet Hunt was denied admission to Harvard Medical College, and instead went to a sectarian school for her formal training. To us, the most tantalizing aspects of the movement are: 1. That it represented both class struggle and feminist struggle. But in the popular health movement we see a coming together of feminist and working-class energies. Is this because the popular health movement naturally attracted dissidents of all kinds, or was there some deeper identity of purpose?

It was not just a movement for more and better medical care, but for a radically different kind of health care: It was a substantive challenge to the prevailing medical dogma, practice, and theory. Today we tend to confine our critiques to the organization of medical care and assume that the scientific substratum of medicine is unassailable. Later in the nineteenth century, as the grassroots energy.

In , they pulled together their first national organization, pretentiously named the American Medical Association AMA. County and state medical societies, many of which had practically disbanded during the height of medical anarchy in the s and s, began to re-form. Throughout the latter part of the nineteenth century, the regulars relentlessly attacked lay practitioners, sectarian doctors, and women practitioners in general.

The attacks were linked: Women practitioners could be attacked because of their sectarian leanings; sects could be attacked because of their openness to women. The arguments against women doctors ranged from the paternalistic how could a respectable woman travel at night to a medical emergency? The virulence of the American sexist opposition to women in medicine has no parallel in Europe. This is probably because, first, fewer European women were aspiring to medical careers at this time. Second, feminist movements were nowhere as strong as in the United States, and here the male doctors rightly associated the entrance of women into medicine with organized feminism.

And, third, the European medical profession was already more firmly established and hence less afraid of competition. The rare woman who did make it into a regular medical school faced one sexist hurdle after another. First, there was the continuous harassment—often lewd—by the male students. Having completed her academic work, the wouldbe woman doctor usually found the next steps blocked. And so it is all the stranger to us, and all the.

The explanation, we suppose, was that the women who were likely to seek formal medical training at this time were middle-class. They must have found it easier to identify with the middleclass regular doctors than with lower-class women healers or with the sectarian medical groups which had earlier been identified with radical movements.

The shift in allegiance was probably made all the easier by the fact that, in the cities, female lay practitioners were increasingly likely to be immigrants. Whatever the exact explanation, the result was that middle-class women had given up the substantive attack on male medicine, and accepted the terms set by the emerging male medical profession. A recognized profession is not just a group of self-proclaimed experts; it is a group which has authority in the law to select its own members and regulate their practice, i.

How does a particular group. In the words of sociologist Elliot Freidson: A profession attains and maintains its position by virtue of the protection and patronage of some elite segment of society which has been persuaded that there is some special value in its work. In other words, professions are the creation of a ruling class. To become the medical profession, the regular doctors needed above all, ruling-class patronage. By a lucky coincidence for the regulars, both the science and the patronage became available around the same time, at the turn of the century.

French and especially German scientists brought forth the germ theory of disease which provided, for the first time in human history, a rational basis for disease prevention and therapy. They returned to the United States filled with reformist zeal. In German-trained doctors funded by local philanthropists set up the first. German-style medical school, Johns Hopkins. As far as curriculum was concerned, the big innovation at Hopkins was integrating lab work in basic science with expanded clinical training.

Other reforms included hiring full-time faculty, emphasizing research, and closely associating the medical school with a full university. Johns Hopkins also introduced the modern pattern of medical education—four years of medical school following four years of college—which of course barred most working-class and poor people from the possibility of a medical education. Meanwhile the United States was emerging as the industrial leader of the world. Fortunes built on oil, coal, and the ruthless exploitation of American workers were maturing into financial empires.

For the first time in American history, there were sufficient concentrations of corporate wealth to allow. Foundations were created as the lasting instrument of this intervention—the Rockefeller and Carnegie foundations appeared in the first decade of the twentieth century.

The group of American medical practitioners that the foundations chose to put their money behind was, naturally enough, the scientific elite of the regular doctors. Many of these men were themselves ruling-class, and all were urbane, university-trained gentlemen. Starting in , foundation money began to pour into medical schools by the millions. The conditions were clear: conform to the Johns Hopkins model or close. To get the message across, the Carnegie Corporation sent a staff man, Abraham Flexner, out on a national tour of medical schools—from Harvard right down to the last third-rate commercial schools.

Flexner almost singlehandedly decided which schools would get the money—and hence survive. For the bigger and better schools i. Their options were to close, or to remain open and face public denunciation in the report Flexner was preparing. Medicine was established once and for all as a branch of. Instead, doors were slammed shut to blacks, to the majority of women, and to poor white men. Medicine had become a white, male, middle-class occupation. But it was more than an occupation. It had become, at last, a profession. To be more precise, one particular group of healers, the regular doctors, was now the medical profession.

Their victory was not based on any skills of their own: the run-ofthe-mill regular doctor did not suddenly acquire a knowledge of medical science with the publication of the Flexner report. But he did acquire the mystique of science. In , about 50 percent of all babies were delivered by midwives—most were blacks or working-class immigrants. It was an intolerable situation to the newly emerging obstetrical specialty.

For one thing, every poor woman who went to a midwife was one more case lost to academic teaching and research. Publicly, however, the obstetricians launched their attacks on midwives in the name of science and reform. Both conditions were easily preventable by techniques well within the grasp of the least literate midwife hand-washing for puerperal sepsis, and eye drops for the ophthalmia. So the obvious solution for a truly public-spirited obstetrical profession would have been to make the appropriate preventive techniques known and available to the mass of midwives. This is in fact what happened in England, Germany, and most other European nations: Midwifery was upgraded through training to become an established, independent occupation.

But the American obstetricians had no real commitment to improved obstetrical care. In fact, a study by a Johns Hopkins professor in indicated that most American doctors were less competent than the midwives. Not only were the doctors themselves unreliable about preventing sepsis and ophthalmia but they also tended to be too ready to use surgical techniques that endangered mother or child. If anyone, then, deserved a legal monopoly on obstetrical care, it was the midwives, not the MDs.

Under intense pressure from the medical profession, state after state passed laws outlawing midwifery and restricting the practice of obstetrics to doctors. For poor and workingclass women, this actually meant worse—or no— obstetrical care. For instance, a study of infant mortality rates in Washington showed an increase in infant mortality in the years immediately following the passage of the law forbidding midwifery. For the new, male medical profession, the ban on midwives meant one less source of competition.

Women had been routed from their last foothold as independent practitioners. Nursing had not always existed as a paid occupation—it had to be invented. There were hospitals, and they did employ nurses. But the hospitals of the time served largely as refuges for the dying poor, with only token care provided. Hospital nurses, history has it, were a disreputable lot, prone to drunkenness, prostitution, and thievery. And conditions in the hospitals were often scandalous.

If nursing was not exactly an attractive field to women workers, it was a wide open arena for women reformers. Dorothea Dix, an American hospital reformer, introduced the new breed of nurses in the Union hospitals of the Civil War. At the same time, the number of hospitals began to increase to keep pace with the needs of medical education. Medical students needed hospitals to train in; good hospitals, as the doctors were learning, needed good nurses. In fact, the first American nursing schools did their best to recruit actual upper-class women as students.

And at Johns Hopkins, where Isabel Hampton trained nurses in the University Hospital, a leading doctor could only complain that:. Miss Hampton has been most successful in getting probationers [students] of the upper class; but unfortunately, she selects them altogether for their good looks and the House staff is by this time in a sad state. Let us look a little more closely at the women who invented nursing, because, in a very real sense, nursing as we know it today is the product of their oppression as upper-class Victorian women. Dorothea Dix was an heiress of substantial means.

They were refugees from the enforced leisure of Victorian ladyhood. Dix and Nightingale did not begin to carve out their reform careers until they were in their thirties, and faced with the prospect of a long, useless spinsterhood. Nightingale and her immediate disciples left nursing with the indelible stamp of their own class biases.

Training emphasized character, not skills. The finished products, the Nightingale nurse, was simply the ideal lady, transplanted from home to the hospital and absolved of reproductive responsibilities. To the doctor, she brought the wifely virtue of absolute obedience. To the patient, she brought the selfless devotion of a mother. To the lower level hospital employees, she brought the firm but kindly discipline of a household manager accustomed to dealing with servants. Before long, most nursing schools were attracting only women from working-class and lower-middle-class homes, whose only other options were factory or clerical work.

But the philosophy of nursing education did not change—after all, the educators were still middle- and upper-class women. For example, until recently, most nursing students were taught such upper-class graces as tea pouring, art appreciation, etc. But the Nightingale nurse was not just the projection of upper-class ladyhood onto the working world. She embodied the very spirit of femininity as defined by sexist Victorian society—she was Woman. The inventors of nursing saw it as a natural vocation for women, second only to motherhood.

If women were instinctive nurses, they were not, in the Nightingale view, instinctive doctors. Woman had found her place in the health system. Just as the feminist movement had not opposed the rise of medical professionalism, it did not challenge nursing as an oppressive female role. In fact, feminists of the late nineteenth century were themselves beginning to celebrate the nursemother image of femininity.

Woman is also the homemaker, upon her devolve the details which bless and beautify family life. And of course the impetus to attack professionalism itself as inherently sexist and elitist was long since dead. Conversely the woman who remained at home was encouraged to see herself as a kind of nurse, teacher, and counselor practicing within the limits of the family.

And so the middle-class feminists of the late s dissolved away some of the harsher contradictions of sexism. Only the medical profession was. At first, male doctors were a little skeptical about the new Nightingale nurses—perhaps suspecting that this was just one more feminine attempt to infiltrate medicine. Nightingale was a little obsessive on this point. When she arrived in the Crimea with her newly trained nurses, the doctors at first ignored them all. Nightingale refused to let her. Impressed, the doctors finally relented and set the nurses to cleaning up the hospital.

To the beleaguered doctors of the nineteenth century, nursing was a godsend. While the average regular doctor was making nurses welcome, the new scientific practitioners of the early twentieth century were making them necessary. He could not waste his talents, or his expensive academic training in the tedious details of bedside care. For this he needed a patient, obedient helper, someone who was not above the most menial tasks—in short, a nurse.

Healing, in its fullest sense, consists of both curing and caring, doctoring and nursing. The old lay healers of an earlier time had combined both functions, and were valued for both. For example, midwives not only presided at the delivery, but lived in until the new mother was ready to resume care of her children.

But with the development of scientific medicine, and the modern medical profession, the two functions were split irrevocably. Curing became the exclusive province of the doctor; caring was relegated to the nurse. She had no power, no magic, and no claim to the credit. The very qualities which fitted Woman for nursing barred her from doctoring, and vice versa. Her tenderness and innate spirituality were out of place in the harsh, linear world of science.

His decisiveness and curiosity made him unfit for long hours of patient nurturing. These stereotypes have proved to be almost unbreakable. At worst, it is sexist itself, deepening the division among women health workers and bolstering a hierarchy controlled by men. The present system was born in and shaped by the competition between male and female healers. The medical profession in particular is not just another institution which happens to discriminate against us: It is a fortress designed and erected to exclude us.

This means to us that the sexism of the health system is not incidental, not just the reflection of the sexism of society in general or the sexism of individual doctors. It is historically older than medical science itself; it is deep-rooted, institutional sexism. It is the whole class system which enabled male, upper-class healers to win out and which forced us into subservience. Institutional sexism is sustained by a class system which supports male power. There is no historically consistent justification for the exclusion of women from healing roles. Witches were attacked for being pragmatic, empirical, and immoral.

But in the nineteenth century the rhetoric reversed. Women became too unscientific, delicate, and sentimental. We are mystified by science, taught to believe that it is hopelessly beyond our grasp. In our frustration, we are sometimes tempted to reject science, rather than to challenge the men who hoard it.

But medical science could be a liberating force, giving us real control over own bodies and power in our lives as health workers. We must never confuse professionalism with expertise. Expertise is something to work for and to share; professionalism is—by definition— elitist and exclusive, sexist, racist and classist. In the American past, women who sought formal medical training were too ready to accept the professionalism that went with it. They made their gains in status—but only on the backs of their less privileged sisters: midwives, nurses, and lay healers. Our goal today should never be to open up the exclusive medical profession to women, but to open up medicine to all women.

This means that we must begin to break down the distinctions and barriers between women health workers and women consumers. Women workers can play a leadership role in collective self-help. Our oppression as women health workers today is inextricably linked to our oppression as women. Nursing, our predominate role in the health system, is simply a workplace extension of our roles as wife and mother. This means that the male medical elite has a very special stake in the maintenance of sexism in the society at large: doctors are the bosses in an industry where the workers are primarily women.

Take away sexism and you take away one of the mainstays of the health hierarchy. What this means to us in practice is that in the health system there is no way to separate worker organizing from feminist organizing. To reach out to women health workers as workers is to reach out to them as women. NOTES 1. Louis, Missouri: C. Mosby, Helen Marieskind, founding editor of the journal Women and Health, chose her surname to honor her mother, Marie.

Hey, girlfriend, how about that Hildegard of Bingen?! Only a few women—usually the wealthy, nobility, or clerics—were educated. Many of these women turned to monastic life, becoming medical missionaries with their monasteries as centers of healing. For example, the English princess Walpurga c. Hildegard of Bingen — , who is best known today for her enchanting music, entered monastic life at age eight. In , at age fifty, Hildegard built a new convent near Bingen, on the Rhine. Hildegard wielded great power, corresponding with popes, emperors, and kings.

Fiery and prophetic, she published her theories on the chemistry and. Obstetrician Trotula di Ruggiero of Salerno, Italy, is credited in the mids with the first description of the physical signs of syphilis and, prior to an understanding of sepsis, for advocating the use of protective pads to prevent fecal contamination during childbirth. Anna Comnena — served as physicianin-chief of an 11,bed hospital in Constantinople Istanbul. Conflict increased over the next centuries between the learned role of medical men and the widespread denial of education to women. Conflict was reinforced by church decrees in the early s, the development of universities in most of Europe as primarily male preserves, the growth of essentially all-male guilds, and efforts at licensure by the church and state.

Women along with barber-surgeons became providers of simple, direct care—treating wounds and infections and setting bones. This dichotomy between learned men and primary care—giving women laid the groundwork for a further division of labor in which women healers were essentially limited to nursing tasks while male practitioners commanded an elite, specialist role.

Brought to trial in Paris in for failing to comply with a licensure law, Jacoba was confronted not with a charge of incompetence but with witnesses and a detailed reading of her medical practices, showing her to be both practical and knowledgeable.



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