of Texas at Arlington history graduate has been named the winner of the 2013 W.
Curtis Worthington Jr. Research Paper Competition from the Waring Historical
Library at the Medical University of South Carolina.
researched how midwifery changed in America between 1920 and 1970. She found
that, unlike her native England where the practice was a valued part of women’s
health care, midwifery in the U.S. raised several race and economic questions
and was considered unessential.
in America was seen as something to be eradicated. It’s always been a central
and highly regarded part of health care in Britain,” Luke said. “My research
exposes the role of the midwife during this period to be a valuable asset in
the provision of good maternity care and also explores the experiences of
African American women as health care providers.”
The paper “Asafetida
to Aureomycin: African American Nurse-Midwives, 1930-1950,” was a chapter of
her thesis “Catchin’Babies: African American Midwives, Maternity Care, and
Public Health Debates in the Jim Crow South, 1920-1970.” She earned her master’s
degree in May.
parts of the South, during the mid-20th century, Luke said that impressive
improvements in maternity care were centered on maintaining and upgrading a
midwifery service. She asserts that midwifery should be an important element of
modern maternity care.
the growth of modern medicine and health care brought essential benefit to the
desperately underserved population of the South,” Luke said. “It is absurd to
argue otherwise. However, as an exercise in historical analysis, a case can be
made that the dismissal of the value of midwifery proved to be ultimately
detrimental to the standard of maternity care in the region. The juggernaut of
scientific hegemony forced into obsolescence a model of care that held
She added: “It
is inadvisable to approach the history of medicine with the intention of
applying modern standards to the attitudes and assumptions of the past. However,
no matter how absurd it may be to argue against the benefits of modern
maternity care, it seems equally foolish not to consider what was lost,
particularly at a time when the maternity care system is again failing black
women. It seems that there is little to lose by turning to history to explore
models of care, techniques, and treatments that may have been discarded a
little too eagerly in the name of progress.”
nurse and certified midwife said she was drawn to the topic through her graduate
coursework and with encouragement from faculty members such as Stephanie Cole,
associate professor in the UT Arlington Department of History.
several of Dr. Cole’s race and gender classes,” Luke said. “I found the topic
relevant because many poor women in America don’t have access to quality
maternity care and this is reflected in the maternal and infant mortality rates.”
her nursing career in 1983 and joined Parkland Hospital in Dallas in 1990. She
took time off to raise her family before pursuing a history degree at UT
Arlington just a few years ago.
Luke’s work an important contribution to the scholarship on midwifery and to
better understanding the history of this health care profession.
research is important because she analyzes changes in midwifery in the context
of the Jim Crow era and the Civil Rights movement, and because she gives many
previously-unheard women a voice in the historical record,” Cole said. “In the
process, she gives public policy makers helpful insights to consider as they
plan future directions for women’s health care.”
receive a $1,500 award during a ceremony next month in South Carolina and her
paper will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the South
Carolina Medical Association. She will next focus on having her thesis
published as a book.
University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of
more than 33,000 students and more than 2,200 faculty members in the heart of
North Texas. It is the second largest institution in The University of Texas
System. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more.