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Project Title: The Role of the Midwife in Hapsburg, Spain
Mentor: Glenda Nieto-Cuebas
The Holy Roman Empire during the early modern period (14th and 15th centuries) accounted for several countries within central Europe that fell under the mandate of the Roman Catholic Church. Of the many royal families that ruled these countries, The Hapsburg family maintained a position as Holy Roman Emperor for many consecutive years, and gained majority of their favor and power through political marriages and the children that came from these unions. Gender roles during the 14th-16th century were very strictly defined, with women following roles set out through religious mandate and the misogynistic teachings of male philosophers. The role of a queen was to provide heirs for the crown as well as represent the ideal woman for the common people. Her health as well as the safe delivery and infancy of her heir were secured through the midwife.
The role of the midwife was one unlike any other in early modern European royal society. She was a figure of power and competency in a role that demanded excellence, all qualities that were encouraged in men rather than women. Aside from being a key witness and aid in the birthing of new heirs, the midwife was a pivotal character in the royal women’s general and mental health, a topic frequently addressed when studying the Hapsburg lineage. This research analyses the relationship of the midwife’s importance within the Hapsburg court, and examines the fights she would face in the eyes of the reformation. Through study of literature, documentation, paintings, and the deductions of other researchers, I will hope to explain the phenomenon that is the midwife’s cardinal role of power in a heavily patriarchal hierarchy.