By Clare Hanson (auth.)
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Additional resources for A Cultural History of Pregnancy: Pregnancy, Medicine and Culture, 1750–2000
She and her husband were known to have lived apart, but a story of a reconciliation is cooked up, with a supporting witness who is probably the real father of the child. A protracted lawsuit follows which Mr Arnold is confident of winning, but the judgment goes against him and he and Sidney are reduced to near penury. As in the case of Miss Burchell, the widow is presented as a middle-class interloper, reflecting contemporary fears about the expanding middle class. Such cases produced frequent territorial struggles between doctors and lawyers, in which doctors were on weak ground because they were unable to rule with certainty on the possible duration of pregnancy, which was often the critical issue.
Advice to the Fair Sex 23 was convinced that 'this poor woman is no imposter, but that she labours under a strong mental delusion' (p. 27). Southcott continued to affirm her pregnancy, but acknowledged that 'should it prove not to be a child in the end, it must bring me to the grave'. She died on 27 December 1814 and, according to the Dictiollary of Natiollal Biography, the autopsy revealed no pregnancy and no functional disorder or organic disease. F. Montgomery claims that at the autopsy putrid matter was discovered, which did suggest disease.
132 Smith did not fear that this would bring about any change in the social order, however, but took the view that the high birth rate among the labouring classes would be offset by high infant mortality, and that labour levels and the class structure would thus remain stable. It was the accoucheurs, not unnaturally, who were most concerned with the question of barrenness among the wealthy: this was, after all, the class on which their living depended. Nor is it surprising, in view of their lack of accurate knowledge of the processes of conception, that they should fall back again on 'nature' as the guarantor of fertility.