cesarean section, christianity, judaism, hierarchy, obstetrics, midwife


Cesarean section in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth century was entangled in a web of legal, political, religious, medical, and ideological tensions. An act of desperation to save the child after the mother died, the procedure was embedded in the popular imagination and imbued with symbolic power. While it was promoted by the Catholic Church to save the souls of the infants through baptism, Jewish communities viewed the procedure with wariness due to its perceived unnaturalness. The coupling of divergent religious views on the procedure, a strained religious environment, and changes in the occupational landscape of obstetrics resulted in the utilization of cesarean section by Christians as a means to demonstrate the corporeal and occupational inferiority of Jews. Using the cesarean section as a point of entry, we can witness the subordination and marginalization of the Jewish midwife.

Cover Page Footnote

A large thank you to Professor Lucia Dacome for her guidance, mentorship, and inspiration, and to the Institute for the History & Philosophy of Science & Technology at the University of Toronto for their continued support.

First Page


Last Page