Babies for the Nation: The Medicalization of Motherhood in Quebec, 1910-1970

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Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press, Jul 8, 2009 - Social Science - 342 pages

Described by some as a “necropolis for babies,” the province of Quebec in the early twentieth century recorded infant mortality rates, particularly among French-speaking Catholics, that were among the highest in the Western world. This “bleeding of the nation” gave birth to a vast movement for child welfare that paved the way for a medicalization of childbearing.

In Babies for the Nation, basing her analysis on extensive documentary research and more than fifty interviews with mothers, Denyse Baillargeon sets out to understand how doctors were able to convince women to consult them, and why mothers chose to follow their advice. Her analysis considers the medical discourse of the time, the development of free services made available to mothers between 1910 and 1970, and how mothers used these services.

Showing the variety of social actors involved in this process (doctors, nurses, women’s groups, members of the clergy, private enterprise, the state, and the mothers themselves), this study delineates the alliances and the conflicts that arose between them in a complex phenomenon that profoundly changed the nature of childbearing in Quebec.

Un Québec en mal d’enfants: La médicalisation de la maternité 1910—1970 was awarded the Clio-Québec Prize, the Lionel Groulx-Yves-Saint-Germain Prize, and the Jean-Charles-Falardeau Prize. This translation by W. Donald Wilson brings this important book to a new readership.

 

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Contents

Introduction
1
CHAPTER 1 A Bad Mother Called Quebec
15
CHAPTER 2 A Very National Infant Mortality Rate
45
CHAPTER 3 Let Us Have the Mother and the Child Is Ours
71
CHAPTER 4 A School for Mothers
107
CHAPTER 5 Bitter Struggles
153
CHAPTER 6 The Quebec Mother and Child
191
To Have or Not to Have
239
Sources
247
Infant Mortality Rates Canada and the Provinces 19261965
252
Notes
253
Bibliography
301
Index
319
Copyright

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About the author (2009)

Denyse Baillargeon is a professor in the History Department at the Université de Montréal.

Donald Wilson joined the faculty of the University of Waterloo in 1970, where he remained until his retirement. A former chair of the Department of French Studies at UW, he is the translator of Babies for the Nation: The Medicalization of Motherhood in Quebec, 1910–1970, by Denyse Baillargeon (WLU Press, 2009) and, with Paul G. Socken, of Aaron: A Novel, by Yves Thériault (WLU Press, 2007).

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