UAHuntsville professor explores history behind mystery of midwifery in new book


HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (August 4, 2011) - University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAHuntsville) history professor Samuel S. Thomas has written about the history of midwifery for historical journals, and in the coming year he will explore the subject in fiction as well.

The book, a work of historical fiction is tentatively titled The Midwife's Story: A Mystery will be published next fall by St. Martin's Press. Thomas's book tells the story of Bridget Hodgson, an elite midwife in 17th century York, England. While Hodgson is a gentlewoman by birth, and thus is close to the most powerful families of York, her work as a midwife takes her far beyond of her elite social circle.

Thomas discovered the historical Bridget Hodgson more than a decade ago, while conducting research for his doctoral dissertation at the Borthwick Institute for Historical Research in York, England.

"By pure chance, I opened a box of wills from December 1685, and saw the words, 'I, Bridget Hodgson, of the City of York, Midwife …' at that moment I knew that I had found a remarkable document," Thomas said. "While I'd read hundreds of wills, I'd never found one by a woman who described herself as anything other than "widow" or "spinster." Bridget chose to define herself not by her marital status, but by her profession."

Thomas is at work on a sourcebook in the history of medicine, as well as a sequel to The Midwife's Story. In addition to writing historical fiction, Thomas has written a book and several articles on subjects ranging from girls' education in British East Africa, to religious politics in the Glorious Revolution, to the rise of the male midwife in the 18th century.

Thomas's areas of teaching specialty and research include early modern Europe, history of medicine and midwifery, women's and gender history and the history of Africa. He has received the following fellowships and awards the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend, Newberry Library/British Academy Exchange Fellowship, Wellcome Trust Research Travel Grant, and a Research Mini-Grant from The University of Alabama in Huntsville.

His book publications include Creating Communities in Restoration England: Parish and Congregation in Oliver Heywood's Halifax (manuscript complete and under review). And, The History of Medicine in Europe from Hippocrates to Harvey: A Sourcebook (under contract with Pearson Education).

Thomas received a undergraduate degree in history from Pomona College (Claremont, Calif.), master's degree in history from The University of Rochester (Rochester, New York), A.M. and Ph.D., degrees in history from Washington University (St. Louis, Mo.). 

For more information
Joyce Anderson-Maples
(256) 824-2101