This month’s feature is brought to you by the December 1947 issue of Midwives’ Chronicle and Nursing Notes and by the themes of home and Christmas. It covers the growing popularity of hospital births during the mid-twentieth century, the role of domiciliary midwives in home births, and recipes for making a memorable Christmas dinner.
The issue of Midwives’ Chronicle opens with a Christmas message to all readers from the Royal College of Midwives. The short greeting briefly touches on the difficulties faced by a nation still recovering from war, but its main focus is on the enduring sense of satisfaction that comes from welcoming new life into the world.
The main body of the issue begins with a lecture on ‘Home and Hospital Confinements’ by Arnold L. Walker (F.R.C.S, F.R.C.O.G, and Chairman of the Central Midwives Board) which was originally delivered at the London Post-Graduate School. In it he discusses the pros and cons of home versus hospital delivery. Before the start of the Second World War there had been an increasing demand for hospital accommodation during labour and recovery. Walker laments the lack of beds and midwives in hospitals and the outdated standards many British hospitals still applied. In Walker’s opinion even though modern hospital births brought obvious safety benefits ‘the home [is] still the best place for a baby to be born’. For Walker the social and psychological benefits of birthing a baby in the home it would be raised in were of greatest importance. This lecture was printed just six months before the NHS was founded and provides a fascinating, and still very familiar, framing of the issues surrounding the debate about where and how we give birth.
The issue’s annual review points to several landmarks achieved by the Royal College of Midwives in 1947, most notably the college receiving a royal charter by King George VI that June and the drafting of a new constitution for the college. The year also saw changes to the Rules of the Central Midwives Board which further improved the status of midwives.
Alongside this is a brief mention of the wedding gift from the RCM to Princess Elizabeth on her marriage to Philip Mountbatten: George II silver including a pair of engraved caddies and a sugar bowl.
Following that we have an article about the responsibilities and opportunities available to local health authorities in educating young mothers in infant care, cookery, sewing, and ante-natal exercise. This issue also includes description of a Preliminary Lecture Course for Prospective Midwife teachers for the first three months of the following year. The course featured lectures on The Anatomy of the Breast and Teaching the Mechanisms of Labour.
A two-page spread follows dedicated to London County Council’s Domiciliary Midwives. The article describes the wartime instructions given to midwives during the Second World War to help them continue their work even when all communications with their supervisors were cut off. Quoting a memo from the files of the LCC Public Health Department: ‘In practice, no midwife has been known to refuse to go to a patient requiring help while an air raid was in progress’.
Ending on a festive note, this issue brings us a special Christmas Cookery feature providing recipes for seasonal treats including Bakewell tarts, Apple Snow and Chestnut Delight. The recipes offer an interesting snapshot of what Christmas celebrations would’ve looked like in post-war British homes and the tricks and tips exchanged by families in the lead up to the big day.
Let us know if you give any of these recipies a try. We’re curious about the Chestnut Delight!
And finally, the Library and Archive of the Royal College of Midwives would like to wish all of the readers of this blog a very Merry Christmas.
A transcript of the Christmas recipes featured in this issue:
No matter how hard the times, every woman who does her own cooking likes to make something ” extra ” for the Christmas table. The following recipes, all tested and found good, meet this wish for something a little different and more festive.
ICED SANDWICH CAKE
Four tablespoons self-raising flour ; 2 tablespoons granulated sugar ; 2 dried eggs ; a pinch of salt ; z oz. margarine ; 1 tablespoon milk.
Reconstitute the egg and beat up with the sugar. Partly melt the margarine and add to egg and sugar mixture. Mix salt with flour, then wrap flour gradually into mixture, being careful not to beat it. Gradually add the milk. Grease two round sandwich tins and divide mixture between them. Bake in a moderate oven for 15 to 20 minutes until done.
The fat in this cake can be left out if wished. Its effect is to make the cake a little more moist. When the cake is cool, spread jam or butter filling over one half and cover with other half. The top can either be iced or spread with a thin layer of jam and then sprinkled with finely chopped nuts.
Line patty pans with a good short pastry, then put in each half a teaspoonful of jam. Rub together 2 oz. sugar and 2 oz. margarine, and beat in one reconstituted dried egg. Add 2 oz. breadcrumbs and a few drops of almond essence, and mix well. Fill the pastry cases about half full with this mixture and flatten down. Bake in a moderate oven for about 15 minutes. When cold, cover with water icing.
Crush icing sugar with rolling-pin and rub through a sieve to be sure it is quite fine. Add boiling water, in small quantities, until the mixture is suitable for spreading.
A fruit crake can be given a Christmas finish with this excellent almond icing, and water icing can be added afterwards as a final touch.
Four oz. soya flour ; 4 oz. sugar ; 2 oz. margarine ; 2 small teaspoons of almond essence ; 2 tablespoons water.
Put the margarine and water in a saucepan and boil up. Remove from heat and add almond essence and sugar. Stir well. Add the soya flour gradually. Knead well until dough is free from. cracks. Shape and mould on to the cake. Leave overnight and add water icing next day.
Beat 2 oz. margarine to a smooth paste with 3 oz. icing sugar. Add flavouring—vanilla, strawberry, orange—as wished. Butter cream can also be made with margarine and granulated sugar
This delicious sweet goes a long way, and while the chestnut preparation can be used by itself, the dish is more substantial and excellently suited to high tea or supper if combined with blancmange.
First of all make a chocolate blancmange—not too stiff, but firm enough to set. The ingredients are cocoa, sufficient to give colour and necessary flavour, cornflour and a pint of liquid. Half milk and half water can be used or dried milk. If dried milk is used, it is more satisfactory to sieve the powder, mix it dry with the cocoa and cornflour, then mix to a smooth paste with water. The mixture is then gradually stirred in, in the usual way, into the remainder of a pint of warm water, and stirred over a gentle heat till it thickens and comes to the boil. Only a little sugar is needed for sweetening.
The blancmange made, leave to cool a little (beating occasionally to prevent a skin forming) then pour into a nice glass dish.
Take one pound of chestnuts, score them across the top. Place in a tin with a little water and put in a moderate oven for ten minutes. Then remove outer skins, put chestnuts into a pan of boiling water, and cook till soft, when second skin is removed.
Mash the chestnuts with a fork. Have ready a dessert spoonful of sugar dissolved in the smallest possible amount of water. Mix this dissolved sugar immediately into the chestnuts, then rub the mixture through a hair sieve. The result should be a light, dry, fine mixture.
Spread a layer of bramble or other jelly over the blancmange, then pile the chestnut mixture on top and decorate with blobs of jelly.
Some bottled apples, sweetening, water, and semolina, are the only ingredients required for this attractive sweet.
Bring three-quarters of a pint of water—or the liquid from the apples—to the boil. Into the boiling water stir two tablespoons of semolina gradually. Keep on stirring and cook for about ten minutes. Remove from heat, mix in sugar to sweeten, and leave semolina to cool a little. Then beat in the apples, which have been cooked, and continue to beat the mixture briskly until it becomes light and frothy. Pile into a glass bowl at the last minute and serve, decorated with blobs of jam.
This simple yet effective sweet can be made with any cooked fruit, or with a fruit syrup or fruit juice.
A small cup of soup for parting guests at the end of the evening is a good substitute for a hot drink, when milk is short. This soup is made with a little dried milk, and is sufficient for eight cups.
One medium sized head of celery ; pepper, salt, to taste ; 1 tablespoon flour ; 2 pint reconstituted dried milk.
Wash the celery, cut up small, and put in a pan with 11 pints cold water. Add pepper and salt, bring to boil and cook for 20 minutes to half hour, until celery is done. Mix the flour with a little cold water, add the reconstituted milk. Mix well and add to the celery. Give a final heat up and serve immediately, with fingers of dry toast.