The Kings Midwife

Essay by emot860 December 2014

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The King's Midwife

In Nina Rattner Gelbart's novel The King's Midwife, Madame du Coudray could be seen as a woman who challenged traditional gender roles, or she could be viewed as one who fit within those roles, and merely worked the system to her benefit. Her profession was one that was highly controversial within society; it was seen that men should be the only ones who had such positions. In the past, women were the original doctors because of their involvement with herbs and other plants when they were the gatherers in the hunter-gatherer societies. Since they were the ones that were picking the plants and cooking with them, they were the ones with the most information on them, so they knew what herbs would cure certain diseases and what ones would help women conceive or have a better relationship, and so on. However as time went on, men became more and more prominent in the field of medicine.

As men became more significant, women slowly became less involved. Soon, they were not allowed to practice at all. They were required to have a degree in order to practice midwifery, but they were not allowed to attend the colleges and universities to get those degrees. Pregnant women were starting to trust the men with degrees more than the women without; attending schools to get the training meant that they had months of practice and knew the best way to go about things, while the women who did not attend school merely learned by watching others. They were seen to be not nearly as skilled or talented as the men practicing.

However, in The King's Midwife, Madame de Coudray was exceptional; despite the constant struggle of men trying to force themselves over women and take their positions as...