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Zine Review: Witches, Midwives, & Nurses

I bought Witches, Midwives, and Nurses: A History of Women Healers from Pioneers Press for $4. They are currently out of stock, but you can buy a copy directly from Last Word Press, and it appears that you can read the entire text on Anarcha Library.

At first I didn’t connect the Barbara Ehrenreich who co-authored this pamphlet with the Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed. She explains on the biography page of her website:

“With the birth of my first child in 1970, I underwent a political, as well as a personal, transformation. Bit by bit, I got involved with what we then called the ‘women’s health movement,’ advocating for better health care for women and greater access to health information than we had at that time. This new concern led to the ‘underground bestseller,’ a little pamphlet called Witches, Midwives, and Nurses: A History of Women Healers, co-authored by my friend Deirdre English.”

Whaddaya know, huh? I assume that Last Word Press reprinted the zine without permission from the original authors, especially since there’s an Amazon listing as well. But I haven’t verified that so don’t quote me on it. Regardless I feel okay-ish because there’s no way that Last Word is making a profit. However, I wouldn’t have bought the pamphlet if I realized that it was a bootleg.

Anyway, parts of my review are directed toward this particular printing:

  1. Need. Bigger. Font. NEED BIGGER FONT. Generally I won’t even read something smaller than 12-point Times New Roman (sorry, Dangerous Damsels), but I made an exception because I was really interested in the content of Witches, Midwives, and Nurses. Plus I already bought it. But the small text still annoyed me.
  2. The pictures would have been much more informative if they had been printed larger and captioned consistently. I don’t know if the images were added by Last Word Press or if they were part of the original zine, but either way my comment stands. An illustration is pointless if I can hardly see it.

As for the main content, Witches, Midwives, and Nurses was well-researched and fascinating, with a delightfully anarchist slant. The zine examines the intersection of patriarchy and medicine, focusing on “two important phases in the male takeover of health care: suppression of witches in medieval Europe and the rise of the male medical profession in the United States” (according to the blurb). Recommended, as long as you have a magnifying glass to aid in your reading. My only complaint about the writing is that I wanted more of it; specific examples from individual lives would have enhanced the academic narrative.

Another zine related to witches and reproductive health: Little Cloud #1, “Borders, Boundaries, and Barriers”, available for $2 at Portland Button Works. Different vibe but same general topic.

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