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News Release

Office of News and Information
Johns Hopkins University
901 South Bond Street, Suite 540
Baltimore, Maryland 21231
Phone: 443-287-9960 | Fax: 443-287-9920

January 4, 2008
CONTACT: Heather Egan Stalfort
(410) 516-0341 ext. 17

Student-curated Exhibit on Maryland Childbirth History
Opens at Homewood Museum Jan. 17

Welcome Little Stranger: Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Family in Early Maryland is a student-curated focus show devoted to customs surrounding childbirth at the turn of the 19th century. On view at The Johns Hopkins University's Homewood Museum from Thursday, Jan. 17, through Sunday, March 30, the exhibition examines practices, traditions and politics concerning childbirth and childrearing in Maryland, especially Baltimore.

Isaac Cruikshank, A Man-Mid-Wife, 1793. Hand-colored etching. London: Royal Society of Medicine Library

The title of the exhibition comes from a common saying of the Federal period, "Welcome, little stranger," used to refer to an unborn or newborn baby. This coy message is found on layette pincushions of the time, customary presents for a new mother, and also was used by Declaration of Independence signer Charles Carroll of Carrollton in letters to his son. Charles Carroll Jr., who built Homewood as his country house in 1801, and his wife, Harriett Chew Carroll, had seven children, five of whom survived to adulthood.

The exhibition is on view to visitors during regular guided tours of the museum, offered every half hour from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and noon to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday (the last tour departs at 3:30 p.m.). The exhibition is free with museum admission: $6 adults; $5 seniors; $3 students, Johns Hopkins alumni and retirees, and children over 5; free for museum members and Johns Hopkins faculty, staff and students with ID.

Drawing on correspondence, newspapers ads, journals and a rich array of visual source materials of the Federal period, Welcome Little Stranger explores early practices associated with pregnancy, childbirth, and family in relation to the Carroll family of Homewood. Themes include family planning and birth control; midwifery and the development of obstetrics; infant care, clothing and nutrition; and children's educational and recreational activities.

Welcome Little Stranger is the culmination of the undergraduate seminar, Introduction to Material Culture: Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Family in Early America, taught at Johns Hopkins during the fall 2007 semester by Homewood curator Catherine Rogers Arthur. The class of eight students met weekly in Homewood's wine cellar to discuss their research, findings and exhibition planning.

Objects on view will include images of midwives, recreated children's clothing, feeding equipment including sterling silver baby bottle nipples, obstetrics manuals, forceps, cradles, diary entries, family portraits and examples of locally published children's literature and toys. Period rooms will be set to depict what Homewood would have looked like in the months before and after childbirth, and related quotes from Carroll family writings and correspondence will help to bring the experience to life.

"We're making an effort to illustrate the similarities and differences between the time of the Carroll family and present day," said Chelsea Gonzales, a freshman in the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering.

The material culture seminar is part of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences' Museums and Society Program, an interdisciplinary course minor that helps undergraduates establish meaningful connections with local and regional museums.

Funding for the exhibition was provided by the late Anne Merrick Pinkard, whose contribution to Homewood also makes it possible for the undergraduate seminar in material culture to be repeated in successive years, with different topics contributing to an ongoing understanding of early 19th-century life at Homewood.

Related Programs

Reservations required for all programs: 410-516-5589. Visit www.museums.jhu.edu for up-to-date information.

Family Days

Saturday, Jan. 16, 26, and Friday, March 21
Presented at 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m.

Classic children's stories, traditional games, hand-cut silhouette portraits, and tea and cookies. For children ages 5-13 and their parents or grandparents. Free with museum admission.

Speaker Series

Wednesdays, Feb. 27, Mar. 5, and Mar. 12, 4 p.m.
Exhibition open prior to each lecture. Cream tea served from 3 to 4 p.m.
$6; Free for members and students

  • Midwifery and Reproduction in Early America
    Dr. Mary E. Fissell, professor of the history of medicine, Johns Hopkins University
  • Three Generations of Carroll Family Women
    Sally D. Mason, assistant to the director, Omohundro Institute, and Carroll Family Papers editor
  • Women, Gender, and Sexuality in Early America

  • About Homewood Museum
    Homewood Museum is located on the Homewood campus of The Johns Hopkins University at 3400 N. Charles St. in North Baltimore. Admission is $6; $5 seniors; $3 students with ID, children over 5, and JHU alumni & retirees; Free for members and JHU faculty, staff & students. Free parking is available. For more information, call 410-516-5589 or visit www.museums.jhu.edu.