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Women's health and welfare

Discourses on women’s health


Health ‘needs’ of women

  • Main focus was on reproduction

‘pelvic approach’
assessments based on middle-class criteria
reductionist approach to women’s biology
cult of motherhood and family life throughout society
women’s life cycle – 3 most important stages
puberty, maternity, menopause


Discourses produced by

  • male and female medical practitioners
  • social investigators (eg. voluntary charity workers, male and female)
  • central and local government officials
  • feminists (eg. Fabian Women’s Group, Women’s Co-operative Guild)


Medical theories about women’s health

  • position of medical practitioners
  • problematic theories about women’s health
  • many explanations
  • expectations of ‘invalidism’
  • backlash against increasing activity, education and employment of women?


Social investigations

  • types of data
  • problems


State intervention in the welfare of the family

  • surveillance of working-class mothers
  • fears of ‘race’ inferiority
  • whose health and welfare was more important – mothers or male children?