By Clare Hanson
Hanson explores the various ways that being pregnant has been developed and interpreted in Britain over the past 250 years. Drawing on quite a lot of resources, together with obstetric texts, being pregnant suggestion books, literary texts, well known fiction and visible photographs, she analyzes altering attitudes to key concerns resembling the relative rights of mom and fetus and the measure to which scientific intervention is appropriate in being pregnant. Hanson additionally considers the consequences of scientific and social adjustments at the subjective event of pregnancy.
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Additional resources for A Cultural History of Pregnancy: Pregnancy, Medicine and Culture, 1750-2000
Wellcome Library, London. Advice to the Fair Sex 45 reﬂects on this occasion that ‘there is nothing now to prevent me from warmly interfering for Miss Burchell. Charming young woman, how is she to be pitied! ’44 Miss Burchell turns out, however, to be a ‘female rake’, who has used her pregnancy to work on both Faulkner and Sidney Bidulph for ﬁnancial gain. After her marriage to Faulkner she returns to a life of debauchery, and eventually dies ‘unpitied and unlamented’. The lack of pity, endorsed through the narrative perspective, seems to have a good deal to do with the fact that Miss Burchell is represented as an upstart member of the expanding middle class, seeking to use reproduction as a form of production, a means of upward social mobility.
245). As the violence of her language suggests, Wollstonecraft feels herself almost a murderer: her initial distress over Imlay is compounded by the fear that her emotional reactions may be damaging her child. She was not in a position to contest prevailing medical views about the effect of emotion on her unborn child, and the result was a wearing degree of self-blame. e. the proposition that maternal emotions could affect the health of the developing child), they deployed the concept in their ﬁction to interrogate the contexts of such responsibility.
However, studies of speciﬁc groups of upper- and middle-class women reveal relatively high birth rates. Lewis, for example, analysed a group of ﬁfty aristocratic British women in the period 1760–1860. She found that the average span of their child-bearing years was eighteen and the average number of live children they bore eight. These women thus had high rates of fertility and productivity, despite the fears expressed over ‘pampered ladies’. 33 Similarly, Davidoff and Hall’s work on the provincial middle classes suggests an average child-bearing span of thirteen Advice to the Fair Sex 39 years, and an average of seven children.