We lost more from enteric [typhoid] than from the bullet in South Africa, and it is sad to think that nearly all could have been saved…..
So wrote Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, physician and creator of Sherlock Holmes in 1924, in his autobiography ‘Memories and Adventures’. He is describing his experiences volunteering in Bloemfontein during the Boer War (1899-1902) in a field hospital where:
Coffins were out of the question, and the men were lowered in their brown blankets into shallow graves at the average rate of sixty a day……You could smell Bloemfontein long before you could see it.
Mrs Blood, Dr Crook, Mrs Killer and Mrs Tipler – which would you choose to be your birth attendant?
These people all practised in Derbyshire early in the twentieth century. Dr Crook was a male GP, Frances Killer was a qualified, trained midwife, and Elizabeth Tipler was a ‘bona fide’ midwife – she had no training but was registered, and had some experience. Mrs Blood was one of a diminishing band of uncertified, untrained ‘handywomen’ who delivered babies and helped afterwards. Which had the best outcomes, for the mothers and babies they cared for? The answer is surprising and may also help explain why birth outcomes did not improve much at first after midwifery became a regulated profession in 1902. Continue reading →