I’m thrilled that my first book review goes live on Nursing Clio today! This is a review of Brianna Theobald’s first book, Reproduction on the Reservation: Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Colonialism in the Long Twentieth Century.
When I started graduate school, I thought my eventual dissertation would examine the history of midwifery in the Jim Crow South. As an undergraduate, I became keenly and perhaps obsessively interested in the history of reproductive health, and it surprised me when, as a graduate student, this concern faded from my research agenda. But this subject remains of major personal and academic interest to me. Now, as a student of health and healing in Native America, I absolutely jumped at the opportunity to review Theobald’s book.
For a long time, Indigenous women have been left out of scholarly conversations about the history of reproductive health. That leaves us with little context for modern sterilization campaigns that were so devastating to Native communities. Theobald addresses the long history of violations to their reproductive rights that Native women and their families suffered at the hands of government doctors, nurses, and other settler institutions.
Perhaps more vitally, though, Theobald’s book addresses Native women’s long and consequential history of activism surrounding reproductive rights. Native women were hardly passive victims of oppression, but sought in multiple creative and sometimes conflicting ways to maintain personal and collective ownership over their reproductive health care. Theobald’s book shows us that we must think of these Native women as founding mothers in the modern reproductive justice movement.
I highly recommend this book for students of Native history, the history of medicine, women’s and gender history, and reproductive rights.