Mother, Machine

What an 18th century mystery can tell us about reproductive rights

A late eighteenth-century “birthing phantom.” Unlike Smellie’s machine, these were not intended to be exactly like the living body, but rather a basic replica allowing midwives to understand the position of the child in the birth canal. By permission of the Dittrick Medical History Center and Museum, granted to APPENDIX

A few years ago, I wrote an essay for a (now closed) periodical called the Appendix. I told a story, then, about a weird machine… a mechanical woman that had been built for the purpose of replacing real women — women midwives, to be exact. Man-Midwives wanted to take over the field, and did so by maligning the intelligence…



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