Friday, 3 June 2011

Midwifery records in LHSA

This week, our Assistant Archivist Laura gave a talk at the meeting of De Partu, a history of childbirth group affiliated with the UK Centre for the History of Nursing and Midwifery. The event celebrated the launch of the book ‘Midwifery in Scotland: A History’ by Lindsay Reid and the talk complemented this with an overview of the types of midwifery records held in the Archive and how they can be used in research.

The Archive has c.105 linear metres of midwifery-related material from a wide range of sources including Edinburgh’s maternity hospitals, the Department of Public Health, and the Centre for Reproductive Biology at the University of Edinburgh. They contain annual reports and minutes, birth registers and casebooks, staff registers, publications going back to the 1750s, press cuttings, photographs and objects to name a few.

Nurses with babies at the Elsie Inglis Memorial Maternity Hospital, 1930s
The records are widely used in research: statistics on the birth weight of babies born between 1841 and1921 have been collated and used in a longitudinal birth weight study; social historians have used information recorded in the birth records to build up a picture of the occupations and social class of the mothers using particular hospitals; and Helen Millar Lowe’s personal papers have been used to chart the campaign to keep only female staff at Bruntsfield and Elsie Inglis Hospitals. 

Edinburgh Royal Maternity Hospital Birth Register showing occupation of parents, 1910

The records are a fantastic resource and we hope that new research possibilities can be explored by opening them up to wider audiences.

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