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Wandering Womb: Women's health nursing past and present exhibition launches

8 May 2019

Fascinating aspects of the history of women’s health are being explored in a new exhibition at the Royal College of Nursing Scotland (RCN) in Edinburgh.

New exhibition on women Launching on Wednesday 8 May, The Wandering Womb exhibition explores themes including menstruation, miscarriage, menopause and gynaecological cancers.

To mark the new exhibition, speakers at the exhibition launch on 8 May include Morag Allan Campbell, University of St Andrews, Dr Gayle Davis, Senior Lecturer; History of Medicine at the University of Edinburgh and Dr Isabel White, Clinical Nursing Research Fellow in Psychosexual Practice, Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.

Drawing on patient case notes from 1890 – 1910, Morag Allan Campbell will explore how women suffering from ‘puerperal mania’, the nineteenth century diagnosis of madness or mental illness associated with childbirth, were perceived to have deviated from notions of domesticity and femininity; how their good conduct and remorse, or lack of it, influenced their diagnosis and treatment; and how their journey towards recovery was charted in terms of their willingness to conform to middle class ideals.

With the concept of 'reproductive rights' now widely recognised, Dr Gayle Davis will focus on 'reproductive wrongs' and the biological straitjacket in mid-twentieth-century Scotland, how women unable or unwilling to embrace their maternal destiny - whether unable to get pregnant or seeking a termination of pregnancy - were likely to be pathologised or psychiatrised rather than deemed capable of making their own reproductive decisions.

Research from the 1970s until present day continues to highlight the challenges healthcare professionals experience in talking with patients about the impact of illness and treatment on women and couple’s sexual lives. Making the Invisible…visible Dr Isabel White will examine historical representations of female sexuality before highlighting research that explores how the social construction of women’s sexuality may shape societal and therefore healthcare encounters in the oncology clinic.

Siân Kiely, RCN Knowledge and Research Manager, said:

“We are delighted to be celebrating the leading role of nursing, past and present, in health care for women with our latest exhibition. This is an inspiring exhibition exploring key areas of women’s health, including how nursing has challenged myths and misconceptions. It brings this important nursing history to life and shows its significance to today’s health services and highlights why we need to speak more openly about intimate health issues.”

Monica Lennon, Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, said:

“It’s so important to raise awareness of women’s health to create a united and strong voice for women and girls around the world and help break the silence about menstruation, miscarriage, menopause and gynaecological cancers. I welcome the RCN’s new Wandering Womb exhibition that explores the evolving role of nurses in women's healthcare.

“Having your period is a regular part of life for half the population, yet you would never know that from how the subject is discussed. Fortunately, that is beginning to change in Scotland and it’s great to see RCN’s exhibition showcasing and celebrating women’s healthcare.”

Page last updated - 09/05/2019