Did you know that before the 1800s (roughly) men didn't attend a birthing - that was left to the midwife. And that was originally the extent of a midwife's duties - to safely bring a baby and mother through the labor. But when war broke out - both the Revolutionary war and the War of 1812 - a shortage of men spread everywhere. Doctors, Physicians, and Apothecary's were not spared. So, with many of the men folk and the medical experts gone, the midwives began to learn and care for others. Soon it was a midwife's job to know how to heal just about anything, along with delivering babies.
In Lady in the Mist, Tabitha experienced a lot of attracts on her profession, one of the biggest being that she was unfit to be a midwife as she was as yet unmarried and had not even had a baby of her own yet. They surmised that she couldn't properly deliver a baby without having experienced labor before. (I asked myself, as I read this part, how they justified when men started delivering baby's - since there was no way they could experience it first! :-P lol)
Many women during the early 1800s died from childbirth. It was hard and painful and if any complications arose with the baby, sometimes it was impossible to do anything on the part of the midwife. Death rates were high and the pressure on midwives just as high.
Where did midwives get their training? Often, as is the case with Tabitha, she is taught by her mother, who was taught by her mother, who was taught by her mother.... Ya, you get the point. :-) If a midwife didn't teach a daughter, then she often taught an apprentice underneath her - a woman outside of her family who wanted to learn how to be a midwife.
Well, there you have it. Just a little something about midwives during the early 1800s. Hope you enjoyed. Oh, and over at my own personal blog I just posted the review for this book, so check it out! :-)