On display now through July 15th in Mr. Maxwell’s library is a special exhibit titled “19th Century Breastfeeding and Women’s Medical Care,” which presents items that are on loan from the Mütter Museum. Part of our author lecture series, this display seeks to bring historical context to author Janet Benton’s novel, Lilli de Jong, which chronicles the journey of a young, unwed mother in Germantown during the 1880s.

“The Married Woman’s Private Medical Companion” by Dr. A.M. Mauriceau, New York, 1850.

This at-home guide in obstetrics and gynecology seeks to empower its reader to recognize conditions of her own body and embrace or treat them. The author prefaces that the contents are meant “to extend to every female…whether married or unmarried”, and includes topics such as menstruation (“monthly turns”), contraception, pregnancy, and child care.

Wooden Nipple Shield (MISC-1522) and Pewter Nipple Shield that contains lead (MISC-1072)

These devices are perforated for an infant to feed through them while protecting the sore nipples of nursing mothers. Solid nipple shields made of lead were used for many decades; the material’s sweet taste may have encouraged suckling. Manufacturers claimed that the flexible shields would not only protect against chafing, but milk inside the shields would combine with the lead to form “lactate of lead,” which would help to heal the nipples.

The Improved and Only Genuine Dr. Meig’s Breast pump (MISC-2087.7) and 19th Century Breast Pump in wooden case (17291.05)

The invention of breast pumps in the mid-19th century allowed lactating women to expel their breast milk into drinking vessels for later use. Using vacuum technology, the glass vessel is applied to the breast and a syringe or piston is drawn out, which expels the milk into the vessel.

Admission to this exhibit is included with cost of docent-led tours now through July 15, 2017.

Tours offered on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday afternoons at 12:15, 1:15, 2:15, and 3:15.

Cost: $7