Midwifery In Colonial America Final Thoughts

Creating a website, www.midwiferyincolonialamerica.com was an interesting and sometimes frustrating endeavor.  I initially started my project using Word Press and then switched to Omeka.  However, making the switch was not as easy as it was supposed to be when in the process my entire website disappeared from the internet.   I contacted the help desk at my hosting site, BlueHost.com but found they were actually not at all helpful.  I explained that my website disappeared and they kept insisting that it was still there with all of the content I described.  After discussing my dilemma with Trevor, I posted to the Omeka forum which actually proved quite helpful by making suggestions regarding what to look for to recover the missing information.  I consider myself computer literate, however I know absolutely nothing about computer programing which seemed necessary to fix the problem with my website.  I contacted Trevor again and he was able to add the missing information to the Omeka program on my hosting site and in the process recovered my website.  Once this was accomplished I was able to begin working on my website.

Before I started my website I used Google to search the internet for any websites related to the history of midwifery in the United States.  The Google search for “history of midwifery” located “The History of Childbirth and Midwifery in America – A Timeline”, Wikipedia pages and links to articles and books.  Outside of the Google search there are very few websites related to midwifery and the only site which discusses the practice of midwifery from a historical perspective is www.dohistory.org which is the companion site for Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s book, A Midwife’s Tale.  In addition to this website, I have provided links (in the exhibit section) to some other websites including Archiving Early America at www.earlyamerica.com which provides links to primary sources, and Colonial Williamsburg at www.colonialwilliamsburg.org (under the heading History and Education/people) which provides links to information regarding people who lived and worked in Williamsburg during the eighteenth century.

In creating the website, I considered several aspects of my current research project, carefully determining which aspects could be incorporated into the website.  The practice of midwifery is an ancient one carried to the colonies from England by women who had learned their art from a female friend or relative who was an experienced midwife.  Midwives kept the secrets shared with them by their patients and therefore did not usually keep written records of their daily practice.  If records were kept, they were usually destroyed when the midwife stopped practicing due to age or infirmity.  In England, midwives traditionally testified in court in cases of infanticide, abortion, bastardy, fornication and adultery.  My research involves utilizing court records for the colony of Virginia to determine if this aspect of the English practice of midwifery was successfully transported to the American Colonies.  Court records provide a window into the lives of colonists and help historians to understand their interpersonal relationships as well as the gendered and class-based nature of crime and punishment.

I have incorporated into my website the records of several interesting court cases in the Richmond County Courts, the Court of Oyer and Terminer and the Colonial Court of Accomack-Northampton County, Virginia.  These cases ultimately highlight the reasons why it was imperative to use the services of a midwife in childbirth.  The presence of the midwife not only safeguarded the lives of mother and child during the birth process, but also offered legal protection for the mother.  Midwives testified in cases of paternity for unwed mothers who provided the midwife with the identity of the father at the height of labor – a time when it was believed women would not lie.  This belief grew out of the fear women suffered during childbirth – they feared for their lives because women died during childbirth at much higher rates than today due to complications, especially childbed fever (Puerperal fever).  The presence of the midwife also provided the mother protection against charges of infanticide – if the baby was stillborn the midwife and other women present were able to attest to the condition of the child at birth.

The cases included on this website involve charges of infanticide when childbirth took place outside of the company of women, as well as cases of bastardy, fornication and adultery.  When men of property were charged with crimes the primary “punishment” assigned involved a fine payable in cash or tobacco.  In contrast, when women and indentured servants (men and women) were the defendants in these cases the punishments assigned included whipping, added time to their indenture and hanging.

Also included in the exhibit section are some photographs taken by me at Colonial Williamsburg of the man-midwife/surgeon’s tools and Dr. Galt’s license to practice midwifery from London, England.

I enjoyed creating this website and feel that I have accomplished the goals stated in my project proposal.  I also decided to add a comments page using Intense Debates so that visitors can leave comments or suggestions regarding the website.  I plan to continue to add case files and photographs to the site as I pursue additional research into the practice of midwifery in colonial America.

 

A reflection

Despite the findings of my research paper, I was notably impressed with the ability of video games to educate. The primary reason I chose not to include Medal of Honor: Frontline in to this group of educating video games, I feel, was because it was so outdated. The primary cause to this point, I feel, was my own bias towards the outdated graphics, the rudimentary objectives and the god-awful aiming system I found so captivating nearly a decade ago.
Yet, this game, I felt was the beginning to what I learned in this class. While the game, itself, was not representative of the direction society is taking itself, I feel this class demonstrated the change in society as well as the current trend. From electronic museums, to charting the use of the word “the,” to a website that catalogued every change or edit to the bible since its original penning, I can, with ease, say that I was witness over the pas semester to the change in direction of how my children, grandchildren and grand-grandchildren will be learning. Truly, there will be no more speak and spell.
Five years ago, Hitachi claimed the world’s smallest microchip, with dimensions of .15 millimeter x .15 millimeter. The innovations I’ve personally seen and explored in this semester lead me to be very excited about learning and, especially, what role our generation will take in the annals of digital history. Will this countless amount of innovation be portrayed simply on one website or, in 50 years, will computers simply plug right in to our brains and tell us everything it is we need to know. I’ve enjoyed imagining and exploring with all of you and I hope you have with me. Thanks for a great semester!

Proposal for future research

As Gee’s six-year old noted, “the bad guys become the good guys.” In the most recently released version of Medal of Honor, titled, “Black Ops,” already cited as completely unrealistic (Elliott 2011), the multiplayer option exists to play as US forces or Taliban in Afghanistan. The game is groundbreaking in that, previously, no game has ever been produced during the same time period of the conflict (KENRECK). Previous versions of war games have depicted Vietnam, WWII, WWI, etc but have all been produced years following the conflicts. This current day game allows for players to play as the Taliban and, essentially, kill soldiers. The problem comes heretofore in that, in current times, these very same things are happening. Four thousand deaths are attributed to the Iraqi War and that number is currently being broached in Afghanistan. War Veterans, regardless of what conflict they served in, will synonymously chime in that war is hell. At what point can the seeming invincibility of soldiers or the glorification of video games be considered enough? The United States Army uses “America’s Army” – a video game made and produced by the US Army – as its number one recruiting tool (Hsu).
A proposal for future research would be to investigate a comparison between actual war experiences and the emotions triggered alongside such things as compared to video game experiences. Alongside this, the psychological toll of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom could well be our generation’s Agent Orange, cites Dr. Sally Satel (Satel 2005). The wounds of the thousands of soldiers coming home from war takes form not always in missing limbs and dismembered lives but scarred minds and damaged psyches. It is notable in my research to point out to my detachment to the horrors of war. Research, is therefore, commendable on the link between post-traumatic stress disorder and the playing of video games. If soldiers that couldn’t perform in the field get a second chance to save themselves or their brethren, healing, perhaps, could begin to emerge.

Kenreck, Todd. “From Real Drug War to Video Game.” In-Game. Web. 23 Mar. 2011.
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Hsu, Jeremy. “For the U.S. Military, Video Games Get Serious | LiveScience.” Current
News on Space, Animals, Technology, Health, Environment, Culture and History | LiveScience. Web. 23 Mar. 2011. .

Satel, Dr, Major Gregory Burbelo and Nate Zinsser. “AEI – Soldiers, Psyche, and the
Department of Veterans Affairs.” Welcome to AEI. Web. Collection of studies. 19 Apr. 2011. .

Project Statement: Pixellated Culture

I went into this project thinking of all potentials for a video game blog. At first I hit some speed bumps when I tried to come up with an idea that was different enough, making reviews and videos quickly out of the question to avoid being called a copycat. Thus Pixellated Culture combined my penchant for all things history, literary, and video game.

One of the first things I noticed when creating this blog is how hard it really is to get out there. There are a lot of blogs just on Blogger, let alone getting WordPress and Omeka in the list. I was unsure how to get into this. Thankfully Blogger’s random button convinced me I’d get traffic and off I went.

Right now, Pixellated Culture, while not a booming success, is a success by my standards. I had wanted only 10 page views per post, and have averaged that and more. This surprised me as I’ve done little marketing of the blog outside my Twitter feed. I do regret not being able to market more, which is probably the only thing I would change if I had to do this again. This whole project has made me think about the status of video games as part of a scholarly agenda and what kind of audience wants this type of blog.

What surprised me the most was the google searches that led to my blog. Unfortunately, those who read my blog appear to be RSS -and- Follow-phobic, as my blog does not have any actual follows through these things, meaning those who do read the blog either follow my twitter links or go out of their way to type the address into the bar. These same people also don’t comment. I consider this a good and a bad thing. It’s bad because I would love my reader’s input into what I cover or if they think I’m crazy, but it’s good in a no trolls on my blog way. Perhaps no news is good news.

This project also made me realize the international application of the internet. Most of this class was spent focusing on American usage and ideas, with the potential for these ideas to go across the board. I’ve had many hits from across Europe. The U.S. is certainly my prime audience right now with a majority of my hits coming from within the U.S., but I have readers in Finland, Hungary, Denmark. Unfortunately, I can’t tell if I have multiple readers in these areas or if it’s just one, but I now have to keep an international base in mind since video game releases vary. This isn’t much of a problem with modern video games, as most developers prefer to release world wide on or around the same day, but they might not have access to all the online games I do.

This blog has also made me consider what is a game. Recently, I decided to do a post on flash games, with the flash games all being on one particular site that I frequent. Hopefully, I can gage the response from that so I know how soon and if my audience wants to talk about those type of games or if they are of a more “hardcore” sector.

One of the last things I noticed as a trend was that my literary posts tended to get more traffic than my historical posts. My post on Bioshock (second post) garnered more hits than my post on Fallout 3 (first post), which could be handwaved by saying it was order. But my post on Silent Hill (fourth post) garnered more hits than either Metal Gear Solid (third post) or Assassin’s Creed (fifth post). What this tells me is that while my audience is interested in the historical aspect (they still read those posts) they prefer looking at the literary aspect, the story aspect. I find all this to be an interesting look into the current gamers’ mind, but can in no way call this conclusive. I will maintain the project in the future, as this topic still remains in my interest and I feel like I can’t let my readers down now.

Rollout: The Project Gemini Chronicles

I am nearly finished with my digital project, The Project Gemini Chronicles. I am pleased with the outcome of this project, but of course, there is room for improvement.

Here’s what this project features:

  • Primary source documents, uploaded to Scribd by others
  • Slideshows for all but one of the missions (still working on obtaining photos for Gemini 9)
  • A YouTube video on each mission page
  • Curated links to other resources via Delicious

If I had more time and resources, here’s what the next steps would be:

  • Through FOIA, I would have searched for even more primary source documents, scanned them, and uploaded. This way this site would be a comprehensive destination for Project Gemini primary source documents.
  • More video content
  • More comprehensive copy

The site, in its current version, is complete and should be considered a framework for future expansion. Curating the content was very time-consuming, but it was a good experience.

This site accomplishes its intended goals, which I posted about in January:

This project will make accessible historical information that is difficult to find over the vast sprawl of the Internet. NASA’s work interests many people, and I feel this site would do a service to the general public by making this information easier for the public to find. Perhaps it could even be used as a teaching tool in classes.

I feel, as a result of my work, this does serve as an effective portal. Those interested in learning additional information that is beyond the scope of this site are able to find additional resources in the curated links.

I learned a lot as I went through this process, the biggest surprise being just how long a project like this takes to put together. But I can’t think of anything I would do differently. I am proud of this project, and I hope you enjoy it as well!