Fetal Positions

Ourselves Unborn
A History of the Fetus in Modern America
Sara Dubow
Oxford University Press, $29.95, 320 pp.

Americans living in the mid-nineteenth century knew almost nothing about the human fetus, at least in a biological sense. Prior to a mother’s perception of fetal movement, which occurs in the fourth or fifth month of gestation, the very existence of a pregnancy could not be definitively established. Despite the discovery of the mammalian egg in 1827 and the development of cell theory in the 1830s, many ordinary Americans continued to regard the fetus prior to “quickening” as inert matter and...

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About the Author

Leslie Woodcock Tentler, author of Catholics and Contraception: A History, is professor of history at the Catholic University of America.