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Yang Chongrui and the First National Midwifery School: Childbirth Reform in Early Twentieth-Century China

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image of Asian Medicine

This paper examines the First National Midwifery School (FNMS) and its connexions with the Rockefeller Foundation and the Nationalist government. During the Nationalist era (1927‐37), western medical personnel and Chinese intellectuals attempted to modernise China by reforming childbirth as part of a new public health system. As most of the biomedical personnel in China were trained in the United States, it may be expected that midwifery reform would have followed the same path as in the West, with physicians displacing midwives. On the contrary, in China we see a blending of Chinese cultural and social needs with western public health methods to create a system that has survived in China to this day. The FNMS acted as a liaison between East and West, between private philanthropic organisations and the government. The most significant player in this field, Dr Yang Chongrui, played a vital role in professionalizing the new occupation of the modern Chinese midwife. Yang’s vision to train midwives to reduce the high maternal and infant mortality rates was one of the most important public health efforts in China during this time. In the process, women were targeted both as actors in China’s nation-building strategies and as reproducers of China’s citizenry.


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