Locke on Midwifery and Childbirth: A Glimpse of a Sexist Epistemology?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In this chapter I explore whether what's come to be known as Locke's 'Midwifery Notes' reveals that Locke has a tendency toward a sexist epistemology. I argue that it doesn't appear as if Locke is challenging women as epistemic agents per se in this document, but rather the efficacy of midwives. I then consider whether Locke has the kind of attitude that undergirds the eventual divide between obstetrics and midwifery as it arises in the US - a divide taken to be teeming with sexist assumptions on the obstetrics' side. I argue that this kind of reading is ruled out given what Locke says about the practices of midwives in the 'Midwifery Notes' and what he says about medical practice more generally in 'Anatomia.' Nevertheless, there is something different about Locke's tone in the 'Midwifery Notes' and it's worth considering how the trope of the 'meddling' or 'useless' woman is playing a role in this often overlooked text.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Lockean Mind
EditorsShelley Weinberg, Jessica Gordon-Roth
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781351583817
ISBN (Print)9781315099675
StatePublished - Aug 31 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 selection and editorial matter Jessica Gordon-Roth and Shelley Weinberg. All rights reserved.


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