Caption: Migrant cotton picker and her baby, Buckeye, AZ, 1940 , Credit: National Archives
Image by: National Archives 
Migrant cotton picker and her baby, Buckeye, AZ, 1940  

Born in the USA: A History of Birth

From: BackStory with the American History Guys
Series: BackStory with the American History Guys: Full Episodes
Length: 54:00

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The American History Guys are back! In this premiere episode of BackStory's new weekly schedule, we explore the history of childbirth in America. Topics include everything from naming conventions to midwifery in Colonial America to changing ideas on when legal personhood begins. The overarching question for the hour: “What has it meant to be born in the USA?”

Baby1-300x250_small To mark Mother's Day -- and the rebirth of BackStory as a weekly program -- the History Guys set out to explore the earliest stages of life in America. They begin with a few of the basic assumptions we have about birth in America today, and spend the hour exploring how those assumptions came into being. How is it that hospital doctors moved in on what had been midwife’s exclusive territory? Why did Puritans think their newborns were damned from the outset? When did courts start ruling that fetuses had legal rights? Why have generations of Americans resisted the notion of birthright citizenship?


Guests Include:

  • Laura Wattenberg: founder, BabyNameWizard.com
  • Peggy Bendroth: Congregational Christian Historical Society
  • Laurel Thatcher Ulrich: Professor of History, Harvard University (A Midwife’s Tale)
  • Jessica Waters: Professor of Law, American University

Piece Description

To mark Mother's Day -- and the rebirth of BackStory as a weekly program -- the History Guys set out to explore the earliest stages of life in America. They begin with a few of the basic assumptions we have about birth in America today, and spend the hour exploring how those assumptions came into being. How is it that hospital doctors moved in on what had been midwife’s exclusive territory? Why did Puritans think their newborns were damned from the outset? When did courts start ruling that fetuses had legal rights? Why have generations of Americans resisted the notion of birthright citizenship?


Guests Include:

  • Laura Wattenberg: founder, BabyNameWizard.com
  • Peggy Bendroth: Congregational Christian Historical Society
  • Laurel Thatcher Ulrich: Professor of History, Harvard University (A Midwife’s Tale)
  • Jessica Waters: Professor of Law, American University

Timing and Cues

SHOW RUNDOWN

06:00 – 19:00 SEG A
IC: Major support for Backstory is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
OC: We’ll be back in a minute.

6:00 - 11:50 A Jessica By Any Other Name
The Guys interview Laura Wattenberg of BabyNameWizard.com about naming trends from the Puritans to present.

11:50 – 19:00 Devil Babies
Peter talks to religion scholar Peggy Bendroth about “Day of Doom” by Michael Wigglesworth, a poem in which dead babies talk to us from beyond the grave.

19:00 – 20:00 STATION BREAK 1 (MUSIC BED)

20:00 – 39:00 SEG B
IC: We’re back with Backstory, the show where…
OC: We’ll be back in a minute.

20:00 – 26:08 Before the Ward
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich talks to Ed about the movement away from midwifery and towards hospital births.

26:08 – 28:34 Back When I Was Young
The guys talk explain how birth entered hospitals in the twentieth century

28:34 – 39:00 It Depends on What the Definition of a “Person” Is
Brian interviews law professor Jessica Waters about two court cases that have defined and changed the nature of personhood.

39:00 – 40:00 STATION BREAK 2 (MUSIC BED)

40:00 – 59:00 SEG C
IC: This is BackStory with us, the American History Guys…
OC: …at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities

40:00 – 46:18 To Pledge Allegiance
The Guys riff on citizenship. Does being born on American soil guarantee American citizenship?

46:18 – 57:26 Just Call Me, Baby
Peter, Ed, and Brian take listener calls.

57:26 – 59:00 PRODUCTION/FUNDING CREDITS

Additional Files

Related Website

www.backstoryradio.org/born-in-the-usa/