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Maternal Health in the 20th Century: Historical Research in London's Wellcome Library

Improving maternal health was one of the recent Millennium Development Goals, but concerns regarding skilled birth attendants and women’s access to birth control began well before 1990. In this class, students will consider the historical roots of what remain contemporary problems through archival research in London at the Wellcome Library archives, followed by a fall quarter course in Evanston in which they will delve more deeply into these topics.

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Students will explore the historical roots of contemporary maternal health issues by looking at this broad international concern through a focus on three groups that joined together to work on the concern during the 1960s-1970s: the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), the International Federation of Obstetrics and Gynecology (FIGO), and the United States Agency for Development (USAID). Specifically, students will examine one of two topics: 1) the Joint Study Committee (JSG), formed between ICM and FIGO in the early 1960s to collaborate on initiatives to address high maternal mortality rates in LMICs, in particular focusing on the standardization of midwifery training; or 2) the grant provided by USAID from 1971 to 1980 to ICM and FIGO to integrate family planning into midwifery training.

The fall quarter seminar class will cover ICM, FIGO, and USAID, as well as discuss historical questions raised by the primary sources viewed at the Wellcome, other primary published sources from the 1960-1970s, and secondary sources relating to the larger topics of maternal health, maternal mortality, safe motherhood, and access to birth control (then commonly called family planning). 

POTENTIAL Schedule fOR FALL 2024:

September 14-15: Students fly from Chicago to London and attend a welcome dinner at Museum Tavern Bloomsbury.

September 16: First day in the archives! Students attend a presentation on the history of the library then obtain their library cards and get to work.

September 17 - September 20: Archival research continues throughout the week, along with a medical history walk around London and visits to one or more medical history museums.

September 21: Students fly from London to Chicago.

To apply:

Applications are OPEN and can be found HERE. The deadline for submission is APRIL 1, 2024. All applicants will receive a decision on or before MAY 1, 2024.

Application materials can be found HERE and the International Confederation of Midwives blog post can be found HERE.

Stay up-to-date on this and other short term study/research programs offered by the Program in Global Health Studies on our website and through our e-newsletter, The Beat.

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