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Birth and death

A natural process? - Women, men and the medicalisation of childbirth

Educational Objective

Students will consider the change to the role and status of women in medicine through their changing roles in childbirth, and explore what the views of these women might have been

Classroom activity

Divide students into pairs or small groups and ask them to research the Birth and Death topic and to pick one of the people featured to focus on. If you prefer, you can assign a different person from the topic to each group.

After reading the core narrative for the topic, and the entry about their chosen historical figure, students should create an interview with their chosen person. 

Ask them to think first about what questions they would ask this person, and to make a note of these eg:

  • What do you think of how childbirth is changing
  • How has the role of women changed in your lifetime
  • Do you think it matters if a woman or a man oversees childbirth
  • What cutting edge technology are you using to help women to give birth

Once they have a list of 5-10 questions, ask the groups to swap questions and imagine their figure’s answers. Tell them to include as much real historical information as possible, from the topic and their other knowledge, and to think about what the agenda of the person might be in the answers they give.

Extension ideas

Students can research a further historical figure for homework and imagine their answers, then compare their ideas about what the person might have said with someone else who chose the same historical figure.