Episode 35: The Extremely Risky Behavior Literally All of Your Ancestors Engaged In


Join Em and Dr. Jesse as we play a little game we like to call, “How Early in History Could Em Have Had Children and Survive?” The answer may surprise you! We also cover Mary’s girdle, (some of) the life and times of Dr. James Barry and Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis, childbirth-related saints, the masculinization of obstetrics, and debunk a few myths about parental love in a time of high infant mortality.

Annotations and Corrections

1/ One exhibit from the National Library of Medicine mentions a c-section in 1500 CE where the mother lived and went on to have five more children, and the baby lived to be 77 years old. In this case, the husband (who was a sow gelder) operated on his wife. However in other situations, the woman might live, but only for a month afterward, which I would call, mm, a qualified success at best.

Jesse: Wow, I was off to a rocky start! They all died? Anyhow, James Barry (1789–1865) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Barry_(surgeon)

For more on a trans individual potentially identifying as (or being identified as) intersex, see episode 26 note 14 on Eleno / Elena de Céspedes. See also Israel Burshatin, “Written on the body: slave or Hermaphrodite in sixteenth-century Spain” in Queer Iberia: Sexualities, Cultures, and Crossings from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance (Durham: Duke University Press, 1999): 420–456.

Episode 26 note 14 also mentions Brother Marinos (mentioned later in this podcast) and Herculine Barbin, who was intersex (female identified) and a lesbian.

2/ We talked about Ignaz Semmelweis (1818–1865) at some length in episode 2, I think! He’s not in the notes, though. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignaz_Semmelweis

3/ For more on stones and lapidaries, see episode 26 (Valentine’s Day!) note 2.

4/ Saint Cyr https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyricus_and_Julitta

5/ Saint Margaret of Antioch! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_the_Virgin

Here are some great images:

6/ The Golden Legend https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Legend

7/ Cihuateteo https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cihuateteo

8/ For more, see Monica Green’s Making Women’s Medicine Masculine (Amazon link).

9/ What Florence Nightingale actually wrote: “I never had such a blackguard rating in all my life – I who have had more than any woman – than from this Barry sitting on his horse, while I was crossing the Hospital Square with only my cap on in the sun. He kept me standing in the midst of quite a crowd of soldiers, Commissariat, servants, camp followers, etc., etc., every one of whom behaved like a gentleman during the scolding I received while he behaved like a brute . . . After he was dead, I was told that (Barry) was a woman . . . I should say that (Barry) was the most hardened creature I ever met.” (source)

10/ For the record, Henry VII and his wife (Elizabeth) had seven children.

11/ Here is the act we’re discussing (it’s working it’s way through congress): https://blackmaternalhealthcaucus-underwood.house.gov/Momnibus

12/ A clip from Conan’s podcast Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend (they reference the guy who did her father’s birth certificate around 1:30–2:00 in, but don’t tell the whole story in this section; I believe this is the full episode this is excerpted from, and the whole story would be in there–plus he interviews Dave Grohl!) Also, in a statement on April 24, 2021 (Armenian Remembrance Day), Joe Biden referred to the Armenian genocide as a genocide! So that’s cool.

13/ Philippe Ariès was wrong, but here’s his Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippe_Ariès

Em: I wish I could provide a link to the article I reference, but honestly I have no idea what it might have been. Chalk that one up to sleep deprivation stealing my memory.

14/ Nicholas Orme’s Medieval Children (Amazon link).

15/ Genesis 21:16 (Also in 21:8 Isaac is weaned!)

Episode 31: May Day, May Day!


From Groundhog Day to Hocktide to May Day to Midsummer to Mother’s Day, there are a ton of spring holidays! Join Em and Jesse as we discuss St. George and Medieval dragons, Saint Walpurga and Walpurgisnacht, Pagan syncretism, and a whole lot more. With some digressions about brunch.

Annotations and Corrections

1/ Groundhog Day  is really about https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uw63_YyNsF4

We are posting this on Friday, 4/23. There was snow in Wisconsin (and around the country) earlier this week. Yay, spring.

2/ Hocktide! Check out Katherine L. French, “‘To Free Them from Binding’: Women in the Late Medieval English Parish,” in The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Vol. 27, No. 3 (Winter, 1997); pp. 387–412.

Also see David N. Klausner (ed.), Record of Early English Drama (REED): Herefordshire and Worcestershire (Toronto, I990), 349–350, 553–554.

3/ St George! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_George

Philip Butterworth, “Late Medieval Performing Dragons” in The Yearbook of English Studies, Vol. 43: Early English Drama (2013), pp. 318–342.

dePaola, Tomie. The Knight and the Dragon. Puffin Books, 1998. Amazon link. Sadly, Tomie dePaola died at the age of 85 approximately one year ago (March 30, 2020).

4/ Here is the Dragon Chariot in the Luttrell Psalter (BL MS 42130 f184r): http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=add_ms_42130_f184r

Here is the print made “after” (he didn’t make the engraving himself) Bruegel the elder’s c1559 De beurs op St. George dagen [aka The Fair of St George’s Day] https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_The_Fair_of_Saint_George%27s_Day_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg [Click on the image to zoom in just a little above left of center for the Dragon Wagon!]

5/ John Babington’s Pyrotechnia (1635) (discussed in Butterworth’s essay) https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/345291

6/ Norwich’s dragon, Snap! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edyVLlzAMxs

7/ May Day! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_Day

Beltane https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beltane

8/ Floralia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Floralia

Pliny the Elder’s text in Latin (Natural History, book 18, section 286–scroll down!): http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/L/Roman/Texts/Pliny_the_Elder/18*.html

Here is the translation from Perseus Project, where it’s Book 18.69 (middle of the fourth paragraph): https://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Plin.+Nat.+18.69&fromdoc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.02.0137

9/ Saint Walpurga https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Walpurga

Walpurgisnacht https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walpurgis_Night

10/ Robert Grosseteste (c1168–1253) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Grosseteste

Grosseteste’s complaints about Maying can be found in E. K. Chambers, The Mediaeval Stage, 2 vols (London, 1903), 1: 91.

Bruce Moore discusses Maying and Chaucer in “‘Allone, Withouten Any Compaignye:’ The Mayings in Chaucer’s ‘Knight’s Tale,'” in The Chaucer Review, Spring, 1991, Vol. 25, No. 4 (Spring, 1991), pp. 285–301.

11/ Maypole! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maypole

Susan Crane Performance of the Self https://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/13751.html

12/ Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Lysander in I.i and Theseus in IV.i

See also the Valentine’s Day episode (episode 26)!

13/ Adam de la Halle (1240–1287) wrote a brilliant Robin and Marion https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeu_de_Robin_et_Marion

Spotify links to the music of Adam de la Halle’s Robin and Marion:

For posterity, “Honey I Love You” is played like this:
Person A sits on Person B’s lap. (Can you tell this is a pre-COVID game?) Person A leans face close to Person B and says, “Honey, if you love me, would you please, please smile?” in as beguiling a manner as possible. Person B’s job is to reply, “Honey, I love you, but I just can’t smile” without breaking. If Person B starts to smile or laugh, they have to become the sitter and Person A is allowed to rejoin the crowd.

Bryn Mawr’s May Day Celebration: https://www.brynmawr.edu/activities/traditions (scroll down just a hair)

14/ For more on alcohol, see Episode 27!

Amusingly, and possibly related to Em’s rant about Mother’s Day, this was the first episode we recorded after Em had a baby.

King Bhumibol, also known as Rama IX, ascended the throne in 1946 and was coronated in 1950, just about three years before Elizabeth II did the same on the other side of the world. Elizabeth’s diamond jubilee was celebrated in 2012. Long the longest-reigning female monarch and longest-reigning British monarch, she became the longest-reigning monarch in 2016 when Bhumibol died at the age of 88. Her platinum jubilee is planned for 2022 and I (Em) can only assume she’ll make it. I assume that she’s going to be the queen for the rest of time, honestly.