The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993 Page: 151

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Book Reviews

even the wealthiest women preferred to nurse and nurture their own babies.
Motherhood was considered a sacred profession, and feminine pride was asso-
ciated with infant care. When a mother's health prevented nursing she sought
out a wet nurse, who only sometimes turned out to be a slave.
By the early nineteenth century, a time when most women in the United
States still relied upon midwives, McMillen argues that the plantation aristoc-
racy preferred male obstetricians. Upper-class rural southerners afforded high
status to the medical profession and gradually accepted the male presence at
the time of birth.
Perhaps the most revealing story that McMillen has to tell is the medical one.
She shows that ill health, especially from malarial fevers, was a constant source
of concern, adding to the burdens of pregnancy and the problems of infant
survival. Southern physicians practiced what the author calls "heroic" medi-
cine. They intervened throughout pregnancy and also during the nursing pe-
riod with various remedies of questionable medical value. Bleeding and leach-
ing were especially popular, as was the use of strong chemicals, some of them
extremely toxic to mother and infant.
McMillen provides much important data on southern white upper-class
family life and medical practice, but much of what she brings to light remains
underanalyzed. For example, she offers little explanation or evidence for the
relatively high birthrate among southern women, except to argue that such
women were unaware of their power to say no to pregnancy and accepted their
"lot" in life. This would presume a very different set of experiences among
northern women, which the author does not document. So too her discussion
of white and black relationships is very thin. She mentions the presence of slave
women in the white household as helpers during and after the birth of chil-
dren, but leaves to our imagination the relationship between black and white
childbearing and childrearing practices.
Overall, however, this well-written and provocative study gives us a window
on the medicalization of childbirth in traditional rural society and causes us to
rethink our understanding of plantation women.
University of Texas at Austin SUSAN A. GLENN
God's Last and Only Hope: The Fragmentation of the Southern Baptzst Convention. By
Bill J. Leonard. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing
Co., 1990. Pp. xii+ 187. Preface, tables. $13.95, paper.)
The past decade has witnessed the emergence of a battle for control of the
Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant denomination.
Though the conflict has received much media attention and some scholarly in-
vestigation, few understand the parameters and issues involved in the esca-
lating fight. Bill Leonard understands. As professor of church history at the
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky (though he has
since the book's publication resigned that position), he has lived and died the
conflict many times over. While his own emotional involvement in the contro-
versy (or as he dubs it, "The Controversy") and his sympathy with the moderate


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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993, periodical, 1993; Austin, Texas. ( accessed October 25, 2016), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Texas State Historical Association.