Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Ernesto Chávez

Second Advisor

Sandra McGee Deutsch


Since the founding of The Maternity Center by midwife Shari Daniels in 1976, thousands of women have traveled from throughout North America to El Paso, Texas to train in midwifery, making the U.S.-Mexico border region the epicenter of the North American home birth movement. Through an analysis of government reports, periodicals, archival documents, and oral histories, this study investigates the complex process through which midwifery and birthing at home, racialized as "primitive" and Mexican by White health officials and reformers in early twentieth-century El Paso, transformed into practices associated with White middle-class women by the century's end. Centered on themes of professionalization, medicalization, and citizenship at the intersections of race, gender, class and sexuality, "Birth City" demonstrates that the decades-long precarious status of Mexican reproduction in the U.S. has been critical to the development of the North American home birth movement. It further reveals that the movement has uncritically adopted many of the very racialist ideologies and practices employed in the past to denigrate and eventually eliminate ethnic Mexican midwives and deprive healthcare to working-class Mexican mothers and their infants. By focusing on how gender, class and race are interlinked and constructed, and in turn how they have shaped transformations in childbearing practices and motherhood in border society, this study sheds light on the structural inequalities inherent in the history of the U.S. home birth movement and midwifery, offering a more nuanced understanding of the past that continues to impinge on us today.




Received from ProQuest

File Size

190 pages

File Format


Rights Holder

Heather Marie Sinclair

Available for download on Friday, December 31, 2027