I have considered my ancestors to be Germanic peasant stock. Imagine my surprise to discover my 3xgreat grandmother, Rosine Dorothea Schlinke (nee Janotte) practised as a midwife in the district of Cicha Góra, Posen/Poznan. She passed her midwifery exam in 1820 in English German, and resided in Cicha Góra, area Buk, 1820–1841. She is on a list of practicing midwives, mainly rural ones, who received financial support in the years 1818-1841 and lists of midwives, which were completed by the Poznań Obstetrics Institute and also other notices published in the “Official Journal”.
In the first half of the nineteenth century, midwives belonged to the group of “doctors”, which included:
- a physicist (district physicist),
- surgeon (district surgeon, city surgeon),
- practical doctor,
- practical doctor and midwife,
- practical Jewish doctor and
She learnt the profession of midwife at the “Royal Institute of Maternity” which operated in Poznań. Each year, two four-month “scientific courses” were organized: in German from 1 January and in Polish from September 1. the basis of the course was the “Science of obstetrics for women in the royal-Prussian lands”, published In Poznań in 1821, printed by W. Decker and Co.. This manual was over 420 pages long, had 8 figures and an index). Hence, one of the admission requirements was knowledge of reading and writing. Instead of an introduction, the first pages of this manual provide information about the requirements that would be placed on future midwives. The studies ended with a public theoretical and practical examination in the presence of the Supreme President of the Province and the Royal Medical Council.
The future students were chosen by district landowners and physicists. They were to pay attention to the number of midwives in a given obstetric district. Each prospective student had to provide the following documents:
- a physicist’s certificate of suitability for a midwife, in which it was stated that she could write and read, was of the appropriate age, was not deaf or pregnant, had “fit limbs” and was not ill,
- “testimony of the confessor that so far she lived like a good woman”
- certificate of the relevant office in the district of which he or she intends to work after graduation6.
Six pregnant, poor women stayed at the Institute each year for eight months of the courses, who came to it 14 days before childbirth and left it 14 days after delivery, so during each course there were at least 24 births, “which is an opportunity for practical learning for nursing midwives, whom teachers at the Institute use for their private practice ”.
In 1820, an additional “verification” exam was introduced every three years by a district physicist, which was to check the skills and preparation for the profession of already practicing women. After graduation, midwives, like physicists, surgeons, doctors and pharmacists, took an oath.
In addition to the very efficient midwifery education system, the Royal Ministry of Clergy, Scientific and Medical Affairs had prepared a system of remunerating midwives; they were provided with fixed salaries paid from municipal funds. Each midwife’s district had about 200 families.
Source: Dobrosława Gucia, O nauce sztuki babienia, czyli prababka akuszerką (About learning the art of grandma, or great-grandmother Midwife), http://www.wtg-gniazdo.org/upload/rocznik/2015/14Rocznik2015-Gucia.pdf, accessed 31 December 2020.