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Health History

Witches, Midwives and Nurses: A History of Women Healers

Witches, Midwives and NursesBarbara Ehrenreich,
Deirdre English
The Feminist Press1973

Witches, Midwives, & Nurses, first published by the Feminist Press in 1973, is an essential book about the corruption of the medical establishment and its historic roots in witch hunters. In this new edition, Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English have written an entirely new chapter that delves into the current fascination with and controversies about witches, exposing our fears and fantasies. They build on their classic exposé on the demonization of women healers and the political and economic monopolization of medicine. This quick history brings us up-to-date, exploring today’s changing attitudes toward childbirth, alternative medicine, and modern-day witches.

Women have always been healers. They were the unlicensed doctors and anatomists. They were abortionists, nurses and counselors. They were the pharmacists, cultivating healing herbs, and exchanging the secrets of their uses. They were midwives, traveling from home to home and village to village. For centuries women were doctors without degrees, barred from books and lectures, learning from each other, and passing on experience from neighbor to neighbor and mother to daughter. They were called “wise women” by the people, witches or charlatans by the authorities. Medicine is part of our heritage as women, our history, our birthright.

Barbara Ehrenreich Deirdre English, Witches, Midwives and Nurses: A History of Women Healers

Table of Contents

Introduction to the Second Edition: The Backstory
Introduction to the First Edition
Witchcraft and Medicine in the Middle Ages
Women and the Rise of the American Medical Profession