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Maternity: a film of Queen Charlotte's Hospital

Video

Maternity (1932)

This silent film about birth 'begin[s] where most films end' with a proposal of marriage on a park bench in the manner of a contemporary romance, and proceeds as an educational drama about reproduction through the maternity services of Queen Charlotte's Hospital.

From a working-class home, a girl runs to summon the district nurses, who arrive on bicycles and in turn summon a doctor from Harley Street who arrives in a motor car, and a boy is born. Other mothers are advised to have their babies in the hospital itself, and the labour ward is seen through the expectant mother's eyes. 'No unmarried mother is refused' at Queen Charlotte's.

'Not all are so fortunate' warns an intertitle. We see gravestones and a reminder that every two hours a woman in Britain dies in childbirth, mostly as a result of bacterial infection. The solutions are proper antenatal care, thorough teaching of midwives and research.

At Queen Charlotte's antenatal clinic, an 'almoner' (a medical social worker) books in patients to be seen by the sisters, who examine them and take blood pressure. Expectant mothers are shown how to care for their children with the assistance of a lifelike doll, which is accidentally dropped on the floor as the film suddenly ends.

Queen Charlotte's Hospital was founded 1739 as a 'lying-in hospital' for both married and unmarried women. At the time the film was made it was sited on the Marylebone Road it is now part of the Hammersmith Hospital in west London.

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