Today’s Doodle celebrates Justine Siegemund, a midwife who dared to challenge patriarchal attitudes in the 17th century. She was the first person in Germany to write a book on obstetrics from a woman’s perspective. On this day in 1690, the European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder) certified her book, The Court Midwife, as an official medical textbook. During a time when few women had access to formal education, Siegemund became the first woman to publish a seminal medical text in German.
Siegemund was born in 1636 in Rohnstock, Lower Silesia. As a young woman, she had a prolapsed uterus that ill-informed midwives misdiagnosed as pregnancy. This frustrating experience inspired her to become a midwife herself and improve obstetrical education.
After an apprenticeship, Siegemund began her career in midwifery by offering free services to underprivileged women. She soon became known for her ability to safely guide women through difficult births, and word spread quickly to expecting women across the country.
Siegemund accepted an official position as the City Midwife of Lignitz in 1683 and later became the Court Midwife in Berlin, where she delivered children for the royal family. She also published The Court Midwife during this time and greatly improved maternal and infant health in Germany.
Up until then, German midwives largely passed down their knowledge through oral traditions. There wasn’t a standardized way to document safe birth practices. The Court Midwife was the first to offer a comprehensive guide on childbirth in Germany.
Thank you Justine Siegemund for setting the foundation for modern childbirth education! Your legacy still inspires physicians to take a page out of your book — to make labor and delivery safer for all.
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