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"Births. Mrs. Meek, of a Son".

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Author Charles Dickens
Genres Cross-genre i
Prose: Essay i
Prose: Leading Article i
Prose: Short Fiction i
Subjects Children; Childhood; Pregnancy; Childbirth; Child Rearing; Adoption; Child Labor
Family Life; Families; Domestic Relations; Sibling Relations; Kinship; Home;
Gender Identity; Women; Men; Femininity; Masculinity
Medical care; Nursing; Hospitals; Hospital Care; Surgery; Medicine; Physicians
Other Details
Printed : 22/2/1851
Journal : Household Words
Volume : Volume II
Magazine : No. 48
Office Book Notes
Memotreatment of infants
Views : 886

In the midwife or monthly nurse sketched here Dickens presents, as T. W. Hill observes (unpub. notes to Reprinted Pieces [1858], Dickens House), 'a more respectable Mrs Gamp'. Alone among European countries, England had no regulations regarding the practice of midwifery (this remained the case until 1902): 'Any person, however ignorant and untrained, could describe herself as a midwife and practise for gain' (Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edn, s.v. 'midwife'). The custom of 'swaddling' new-born infants, wrapping them up in narrow lengths of bandage to prevent free movement of the limbs, had been condemned as far back as 1826 (see W. P. Dewees's Physical and Medical Treatment of Children [1826], cited in OED, s.v. 'swaddling'), but persisted far into Victorian times. The phrase 'the brushes of All Nations' is a playful allusion to the coming Great Exhibition of the Works of All Nations (opened 1 May 1851). 

Author: Michael Slater; © J. M. Dent/Orion Publishing Group, Dickens' Journalism Volume II: 'The Amusements of the People' and Other Papers: Reports, Essays and Reviews, 1834-51 (1996). DJO gratefully acknowledges permission to reproduce this material.

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