Witches, Midwives and Nurses reads like the primer on feminist historical studies that it is. This pamphlet, originally printed in 1973 and reprinted in 2010, lays down what became core concepts re-examining what some neopagans refer to as “the Burning Times.” In a ground-breaking and still thought provoking examination of women and medicine, Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English present a refreshed history of how the status of women changed from healers of their communities to property and prisoners, unable to refer to their vaginas using the correct terminology.

While unable to compare to the original edition of the pamphlet, the 2010 edition appears salient. The role of the church in casting superstition on women who obtained knowledge pulls from direct sources including the Malleus Maleficarum and the works of Montague Summers; the authors also delve into how Margaret Mead debunked myths about how a woman’s biology affected her intellectual and emotional capacity.

The read is short and powerful. It connects younger feminists to an important part of their own feminist history. This simple pamphlet laid the groundwork for important components that evolved women’s studies as an academic discipline. Seeing what motivated both the pamphlet and the feminism, from disturbing advice in Ladies Home Journal to medieval anti-midwife propaganda, gives a concrete sense of why we needed, and still need, feminism.

~review by Diana Rajchel

Authors: Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English
The Feminist Press at CUNY, 2010
pp. 112, $8.95

RocketTheme Joomla Templates