Françoise Légey and Childbirth in Morocco

in French Politics, Culture & Society
Jonathan G. Katz Oregon State University, USA

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The pioneering French doctor Françoise Entz Légey (1876-1935) devoted her career in Algeria and Morocco to women's healthcare. Much acclaimed in her lifetime, and remembered today largely for her two books on Moroccan folklore, Légey established in Marrakesh a maternity hospital and a milk dispensary. She also embarked on a plan to instruct “modern” midwives to replace indigenous matrones and sages-femmes, known in Arabic as qablas. While Protectorate policy afforded opportunities to European women physicians like Légey, it simultaneously undermined the authority of indigenous Moroccan women healthcare providers. Efforts by Légey and other European physicians to supplant indigenous medicine with biomedicine ultimately contributed to the landscape of medical pluralism that prevails today. Moreover, European medicine disproportionately attracted the Jewish minority and further contributed to Jewish alienation from the Muslim majority.

Contributor Notes

Jonathan G. Katz is Professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic History at Oregon State University. He is author of Dreams, Sufism and Sainthood: The Visionary Career of Muhammad al-Zawawi (E.J. Brill, 1996) and Murder in Marrakesh: Émile Mauchamp and the French Colonial Adventure (Indiana University Press, 2006).

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