The Professionalization of Midwifery in the Late Middle Ages

Leanne Piper, BA Hons

The concept of midwifery as an independent profession for women, one that gave them the opportunity for autonomy and education, is evident in the historical record of Western Europe in the late Middle Ages. This study looks at several determinant factors that define the concept of professionalization in a medieval context – such as education, the establishment of standards of practice and the ability to earn income – concluding that midwifery should be considered by historians as a specialized profession, separate from other healers, physicians, and lay midwives. The study reflects on the work of early Greek medical scholars and the advancement of knowledge by Trotula of Salerno and St. Hildegard von Bingen, as well as the autonomy of practicing midwives and their relationship to the established Church, to illustrate the status of midwifery as a distinct profession during the established time period.

Middle Ages, Trotula of Salerno, St. Hildegard von Bingen, midwifery education, professionalization

This article has been peer reviewed.


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