Witches, Midwives, and Nurses

A History of Woman Healers

English language

Published Oct. 9, 2010 by Feminist Press at the City University of New York.

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4 stars (2 reviews)

Witches, Midwives, and Nurses examines how women-led healing was delegitimized to make way for patriarchy, capitalism, and the emerging medical industry.

As we watch another agonizing attempt to shift the future of healthcare in the United States, we are reminded of the longevity of this crisis, and how firmly entrenched we are in a system that doesn't work.

First published by the Feminist Press in 1973, Witches, Midwives, and Nurses is an essential book about the corruption of the medical establishment and its historic roots in witch hunters. In this new and updated edition, Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English delve into the current fascination with and controversies about witches, exposing our fears and fantasies. They build on their classic exposé on the demonization of women healers and the political and economic monopolization of medicine. This quick history brings us up-to-date, exploring today's changing attitudes toward childbirth, alternative medicine, and modern-day …

1 edition

A great feminist (and interconnected oppressions) read

4 stars

A brief and resounding argument that the male-dominated medical profession is an recent aberration created by violence in consolidating and support of class power. Emphasis on how expert/evidence/professionalization comes at the end of the process - to start, elite doctors were dangerously uninformed in comparison to folk healers. But the latter's propensity to undermine power and support agitation for class and gender equality movements led to systematic persecution.

Witches, Midwives, and Nurses

5 stars

Astonishingly good, avoiding all of the traps that feminist writing of this era tends to fall into, and providing a excellent history of the "professionalization" (masculinization) of medicine in the United States.

This book does a excellent job of looking at the interlocking systems of gender, class, and race, and provides a essentially anarchist view of what "professionalization" means and how it operates — focusing on the medical context, but much more broadly applicable. The discussion of Nightingale nursing in particular was excellent — laying bare the class implications of it is a very different history than what I'm used to.

I wish there were more historical sources for some of the claims about witches in particular — while everything they say seems plausible, I would prefer to know thier primary sources.

Highly recommended.


  • Women in medicine -- History
  • Medicine -- United States -- History
  • Women healers -- United States -- History
  • History of Nursing -- United States
  • Nurses -- United States
  • Midwifery -- history -- United States
  • Witchcraft -- history -- United States
  • Women's Health -- history -- United States