PUBLIC LECTURE: September 25 JUDITH LEAVITT, University of Wisconsin “Make Room for Daddy: Men and Childbirth in Mid-Twentieth Century America.” This is the inaugural event in the Center’s series of Public Lectures in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine. See details and RSVP at http://www.pachs.net/events/archive/leavitt/

Time: 6:30 p.m. Location: The College of Physicians of Philadelphia

This program is free and open to the public. The lecture will be preceded by a reception, at 5:30 p.m.

Judith Leavitt examines how expectant fathers fared during hospital-based childbirth in the middle years of 20th-century America, ca. 1935-1985. Until very recently, historians describing the childbirth experience entirely neglected fathers-to-be. In the popular literature expectant fathers were caricatured and ridiculed as incompetent, ignorant fools pacing in the hallways and waiting rooms of hospitals. Leavitt argues that we cannot fully understand childbirth and its changes without adding fathers to the story and analysis. Her talk (and the forthcoming book upon which it relies) rescues fathers from childbirth history’s oblivion and reveals–not so surprisingly, but still insufficiently recognized–that these men, too, helped to shape childbirth events.

Leavitt will recount the stories of expectant fathers–many in the fathers’ and the mothers’ own voices. Her talk will remind listeners of their own experiences, and it will demonstrate that men’s childbirth stories are significant because fathers-to-be were active participants in changing hospital practices. At the same time as they tried to help their wives through their travails, these men increased available roles for themselves as they struggled to figure out their own preferences. Their accounts, whether humorous or serious, emotionally charged or ambivalent, show that men’s diverse responses to childbirth have mattered.