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'A Midwife going to a Labour', print, London, England, 1811

English caricaturist Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827) created this hand-coloured etching. The etching is entitled ‘A Midwife going to a Labour’. It shows the midwife as an obese, aged woman. She has been called out on a windy night. Her hooded red cloak battles heavy wind and rain. She carries a lighted lantern, a bundle and a drink bottle. To the left is a watchman asleep in his box, with another lantern on a pole. To the right is a chimneysweep with tools and bag. The etching is perhaps a social comment on the role of women as midwives. Most births at this time were attended by a female relative or local midwife. Very few of these had received formal medical training. Female midwives and educated male doctors clashed throughout the century over who should be in charge of childbirth. It was published in London by T. Tegg in 1811

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Glossary: midwife

A person, usually a woman who assists during childbirth. Historically, many midwives learnt through experience rather than formal training.

Glossary: etching

Print made from an etched printing plate, which is a metal plate on which a design is made by coating the plate with an acid-resistant substance, creating a design in the coating, and then exposing the plate to acid, which etches the plate where the metal is exposed. For designs incised directly into a copper plate using a burin or graver, use "engravings (prints)."