Heralding the Way to a New World

Louise Bourgeois Boursier (1563-1636), Midwife

Portrait of Louise Bourgeois

Portrait of Louise Bourgeois Boursier, 1642-1644

Bourgeois (1563–1636) was an official midwife for the French court for twenty-six years. Her most famous patient was Marie de Medici, Queen of France and second wife of France’s Henry IV. Her work, Observations diuerses, sur la sterilité, perte de fruict, foecondite, accouchements, et maladies des femmes, et enfants nouueaux naiz (Diverse observations on sterility; loss of the ovum after fecundation, fecundity and childbirth; diseases of women and of newborn infants), was the first book on obstetrics to be published by a woman and was based on observations of over 2,000 deliveries. It was translated into Dutch, German, and English, underscoring the breadth of Bourgeois’ reputation across Europe. She wrote in French rather than Latin, the language in which most textbooks were written at this time, enabling wider dissemination of her ideas. Among her other achievements and contributions, Bourgeois’ methods were transformational in helping to alleviate the pain, fear, and mortality of childbirth.

 

In the exhibition

Louise Bourgeois Boursier. Observations diuerses, sur la sterilité, perte de fruict, foecondite, accouchements, et maladies des femmes, et enfants nouueaux naiz [Diverse observations on sterility; loss of the ovum after fecundation, fecundity and childbirth; diseases of women and of newborn infants]. Paris: Chez Melchior Mondiere, en la Cour du Palais, aux Deux Vieperes, 1642-1644.

 

All items in this exhibition are from the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, Rubenstein Library, unless otherwise noted.