What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“She has been approved of by several Gentlemen of the Profession.”
When Mrs. Fisher, a midwife, moved to a new residence in the summer of 1770, she place an advertisement in the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy to let the public know where to find her. She advised that she “is removed from the House at White-hall, to a House in Broad-Street, two Doors above Mr. Deane’s, Coach-Maker, and right opposite to Mr. Charles Philips’s.” Although that information was important, Fisher may not have considered her location the most significant detail she included in her advertisement. After all, she concluded her notice with a description of where to find her, but she first established her experience and other credentials.
Fisher commenced her advertisement by noting that she “has practiced MIDWIFERY in this City for several Years,” a reminder to “former Friends” who availed themselves of her services as well as an introduction to any readers not yet familiar with her reputation. Yet Fisher realized that her extensive experience might not have been sufficient to convince prospective clients to hire her. To enhance her standing, especially in the eyes of readers skeptical of women practicing any sort of medicine, even midwifery, Fisher declared that “she has been approved of by several Gentlemen of the Profession.” Medicine became increasingly professionalized throughout the eighteenth century; in the process, women who had traditionally prepared and administered remedies for various ailments and provided other services, including midwifery, found themselves pushed to the margins, displaced by men who claimed greater expertise based on formal training. Fisher may not have considered any of those “Gentlemen of the Profession” more capable of delivering children and caring for mothers throughout the process, but her advertisement suggests that she suspected prospective clients would at least feel reassured by an imprint of masculine authority. In presenting her services to the public for consideration, Fisher conformed to some of the expectations she believed would yield more clients as she faced greater competition from the “Gentlemen of the Profession.”