On March 28th, Google Doodle celebrated Justine Siegemund, who was “a midwife who dared to challenge patriarchal attitudes in the 17th century.” Siegemund became the first woman to publish a seminal medical text in German when few women had access to formal education.

Siegemund wrote a book on obstetrics from a woman’s perspective – the first person in Germany to have done something like that. Her book, The Court Midwife, was certified by the European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder) as an official medical textbook on this day in 1690.

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What is a midwife?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a “midwife” is described as “a person who assists women in childbirth.” Collins Dictionary defines a midwife as “a nurse who is trained to deliver babies and to advise pregnant women.”

In most countries, midwives are recognized as skilled healthcare providers, who are trained to recognize variations from the normal progress of labor and understand how to deal with deviations from normal. In high-risk pregnancy situations such as breech births, twin births, and births where the baby is in a posterior position, they can intervene using non-invasive techniques.

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Who was Justine Siegemund?

Siegemund was born in Rohnstock, Lower Silesia in 1636. She had a prolapsed uterus when she was young. At the time, midwives, who were not that educated, misdiagnosed her condition as pregnancy. The experience inspired her to become a midwife and improve obstetrical education. Siegemund began offering free services to underprivileged women after an apprenticeship in midwifery.

Word spread quickly after she became known for her ability to safely guide women through a difficult birth. She was soon appointed to the official position as the City Midwife of Lignitz in 1683. She went on to become the Court Midwife in Berlin, where she delivered children for the royal family.