If you have browsed Google today (28 March), chances are you have noticed the doodle celebrating a woman named Justine Siegemund.
Siegemund (26 December 1636 – 10 November 1705) was a midwife in the 17th century and was the first person in her country of Germany to write an obstetrics book from a woman’s perspective, challenging the patriarchal attitudes of the time.
The seminal book, The Court Midwife, was certified by the European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder) as an official medical textbook on 23 March 1690, making her the first woman in Germany to publish a medical text.
Life and legacy of Justine Siegemund
Siegemund was born in Prenzlau, Germany on 26 December 1636 and went on to learn midwifery from her mother, who was also in the profession. She married the Lutheran minister, Andreas Siegemund, and the pair had six children.
In 1690, The Court Midwife was first published and was soon to become one of the most important books in midwifery history. It contained accounts of Siegmemund’s experience and advice for others in the role. Written in German, it was read and translated into multiple different languages.
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The book helped dispel the myth that babies cannot survive outside of the womb before 40 weeks. Siegemund detailed her experience of successfully delivering healthy babies as early as 37 weeks, contrary to medical beliefs of the time.
It also helped challenge the notion that only men could be trusted to deliver babies. Midwifery was a male-dominated profession at the time, but her book paved the way for that to change.
Siegemund died on 10 November 1705 but her book continued to be studied into the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, she is known as a pioneer of the midwifery industry and is credited for being a trailblazer.
Posthumously, Siegemund has been recognised for her contribution. In 2004, the Justine Siegemund Award was established by the German Society for the History of Medicine, Science, and Technology. The award recognises work in the history of medicine by young scholars.
She has also been credited by numerous medical and historical organisations for her contributions and for helping to further the field of midwifery.
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