History Faculty Publications and Presentations

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Book Review

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Mary Melcher examines a host of issues associated with reproduction in Arizona in the last century, including childbirth, midwifery, infant mortality rates, pre- and post-natal care, contraception, and abortion. She argues that “this vital component of women’s experiences—reproduction and the choices related to it—has been affected by environmental, political, and cultural factors in Arizona and the West during the course of the twentieth century” (178). With respect to environment, for example, birth attendants and caregivers in the state traveled vast expanses to reach patients in rural settings. Consider the difficulty of attending to the health needs of those living in isolated segments of the Navajo Reservation. Roughly 27,000 square miles wide, the reservation spanned over territory in three western states, including much of northeastern Arizona: this remote, expansive space was the challenge of public health nurse Mary Zillatus in the early 1950s. To access this often private world, Melcher included approximately thirty oral histories, memoirs, letters, photos, biographical collections, newspaper articles, and government documents. The result is a thorough examination of women’s health issues over a prolonged and often politically charged period, especially in the post- Roe v. Wade era.


Original published version available at https://doi.org/10.1353/swh.2014.0047

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Publication Title

Southwestern Historical Quarterly



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History Commons



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