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Between Birth and DeathFemale Infanticide in Nineteenth-Century China$
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Michelle T. King

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780804785983

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804785983.001.0001

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Deciding a Child’s Fate

Deciding a Child’s Fate

Women and Birth

(p.14) (p.15) One Deciding a Child’s Fate
Between Birth and Death

Michelle T. King

Stanford University Press

Chapter 1 begins with the example of a sixteenth-century woman named Ye who drowned her first daughter immediately after birth. This chapter considers the various factors that influenced such a decision. In late imperial China, it is essential to consider how gender was a factor in a woman’s decision-marking, beyond the most obvious a immediate selection of daughters as victims. This chapter also examines the crucial, complex, and conflicting roles of many different women, including the mother, midwife, mother-in-law, other female relations and even the ghost of the unwanted daughter herself, in determining the outcome of this moral quandary. The particular nature of the typical birth scenario as an all-female enterprise gave opportunities for women to influence each other’s behavior—for both better and worse.

Keywords:   birth, infanticide, China, Three Followings, reproduction, midwife, morality books

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