Today, Google is honoring Justine Siegemund, a revolutionary German midwife who broke gender stereotypes in the 17th century, with a Doodle. Her groundbreaking book, “The Court Midwife,” questioned cultural norms and made her the first woman to publish an important medical text in German.
Justine Siegemund, who was born on December 26, 1636 in Rohnstock, now named Roztoka, Lower Silesia, was inspired to become a midwife after being misdiagnosed at age 20 with pregnancy instead of a prolapsed uterus by midwives. Initially, she provided free services to impoverished women, but as her reputation grew, she began serving the needs of women from noble families.
In 1683, she was appointed City Midwife of Lignitz, and in 1701, she was appointed Court Midwife of Berlin. During her time as Court Midwife, Siegemund assisted in the delivery of royal children, and it is claimed that her book, The Court Midwife, was commissioned by Mary II of Orange, who was impressed by Siegemund’s expertise and wanted her to write a guide for other midwives.
Prior to the publishing of her book, there was no systematic technique among German midwives for documenting safe delivery practices; instead, they depended on the oral transmission of knowledge.
The Court Midwife featured drawings by renowned medical illustrators and delivery techniques created by Siegemund. She wrote the book out of concern for women and with a focus on preserving the life of mothers in life-threatening situations. Siegemund persisted despite sexist attacks on her reputation by male physicians and midwives. Throughout treatments, she utilized less medications and surgical devices than her male peers.