Blake Wood
Publish Date

A new book, “Rickets, Race and Reproduction: Contracted Pelvis and the American Way of Birth,” authored by University of Illinois Springfield Emerita Associate Professor of History, Women’s Studies and African-American Studies Deborah Kuhn McGregor and completed posthumously by her husband, UIS Emeritus Professor of History Robert McGregor, was published on Feb. 1, 2024.

Kuhn McGregor, who passed away in 2020, was dedicated to researching and understanding the historical significance of rickets, a disease commonly associated with childhood. She was nearly finished with the book when she passed away.

The book delves into the complex history of rickets, exploring its association with race and its profound impact on childbirth throughout American history. For centuries, rickets baffled medical researchers and posed significant risks for women during childbirth, often resulting in a contracted pelvis that obstructed the birth canal.

“Rickets, Race and Reproduction” sheds light on the various misconceptions surrounding the disease, which was once attributed to factors such as lack of sunlight or exercise, or even racial differences. It wasn't until the discovery of vitamin D in the early 20th century that medical understanding of rickets began to improve, leading to a significant reduction in its prevalence.

Despite advancements in treating rickets, the book highlights how medical intervention in childbirth continued to evolve, with a shift from home births to hospital deliveries. This transition was accompanied by racial assumptions and a rise in surgical procedures such as anesthesia and caesarean sections, fundamentally altering the birthing experience.

Published by McFarland Books, “Rickets, Race and Reproduction” is now available for purchase in paperback, offering readers a comprehensive understanding of the historical complexities surrounding childbirth and the impact of rickets.