Midwife of the Week: Hanna Porn

norfolk county courthouse

A historical Massachusetts courthouse.

Hannah Porn, a Finnish immigrant who trained at the Chicago Midwife Institute, practiced in Gardner, Massachusetts, serving mostly immigrants’ and laborers’ wives. Family practice doctors in the area felt that Porn’s very successful midwifery practice cut into physicians’ work attending births. At their instigation, Hannah was repeatedly arrested, undergoing four court trials in ten years. She left no writings to tell her story, but in 1908 was quoted as saying, “The reason I continued the business, after being told by the court to stop the work, is that I thought the law is unjust.” At the end of this trial she was convicted of practicing medicine without a license and sentenced to three months in prison. However, Hannah never gave up her practice; municipal birth records show that she attended the birth of a baby boy the very day of her death. For a detailed article on Hannah Porn, see Eugene R. Declercq’s article, The Trials of Hanna Porn: The Campaign to Abolish Midwifery in Massachusetts.

This Midwife of the Week post was written by Valerie Meharg. It originated on FoMM’s Facebook page and is archived here on our website for your continued enjoyment!

Advertisements