Image Courtesy: Google Doodle
Justine Siegemund (26 December 1636 – 10 November 1705) was 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 23 March 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.
Life and Career
Siegemund was born in Prenzlau, Germany on 26 December 1636. She learned the trade of midwifery from her mother, who was also a midwife. She married a Lutheran minister, Andreas Siegemund, and together they had six children.
In 1690, Siegemund published her most famous work, “The Court Midwife,” which is considered one of the most important works in the history of midwifery. The book, written in German, was a detailed account of her experiences as a midwife and included advice for other midwives and physicians. “The Court Midwife” was widely read and translated into several languages.
Siegemund’s book was also notable for challenging the traditional medical belief that a fetus could not survive outside the womb until the 40th week of pregnancy. Siegemund recounted several cases in which she had delivered healthy infants at 37 or 38 weeks, which was contrary to the prevailing medical opinion of the time.
Siegemund’s work as a midwife was also significant because it challenged the idea that only men could be trusted to deliver babies. At the time, midwifery was a male-dominated profession, and women were often marginalized in the field. Siegemund’s success as a midwife and author helped to elevate the status of women in the profession and paved the way for future generations of female midwives.
Justine Siegemund died on 10 November 1705, but her legacy lived on. Her book, “The Court Midwife,” continued to be read and studied throughout the 18th and 19th centuries and influenced the development of midwifery as a profession. Today, she is remembered as one of the pioneers of modern midwifery and a trailblazer for women in the field.
Award and Legacy
Justine Siegemund’s legacy has been recognized through various awards and honors. In 2004, the German Society for the History of Medicine, Science, and Technology established the Justine Siegemund Award, which recognizes outstanding work in the history of medicine by young scholars. In addition, Siegemund’s contributions to the field of midwifery have been acknowledged by numerous medical and historical organizations. Her book, “The Court Midwife,” continues to be studied and referenced by scholars in the field of obstetrics and gynecology.
Siegemund’s legacy also extends to the broader history of women’s rights and the feminist movement. As a woman who challenged traditional gender roles and paved the way for future generations of female midwives, she is seen as a role model and inspiration for women in many fields.
On 28 March 2023, Google celebrated Justine Siegemund with a doodle.
Justine Siegemund’s contributions to the development of midwifery, as well as her role in challenging traditional gender roles, have left a lasting impact on the history of medicine and women’s rights. Her legacy continues to be celebrated and honored by scholars and organizations around the world.