The invention of the forceps is incredulously credited to Pierre (Peter) Chamberlen (1560-1631).
The official version is that Peter Chamberlen invented this method of pulling the baby out of the womb.
His children and grandchildren, who were also obstetricians, managed to keep this instrument a family-secret for three generations. Their scheme of keeping the secret was to get everyone out of the room and to blindfold the mother. The forceps would be brought into the house in a large box and only opened once the coast was clear.
These forceps were finally discovered in 1813 under a trap door in the loft of Woodham Mortimer Hall, the family’s home, and so the secret was revealed.
This is the official version.
Mary’s memoir presents us with alternative facts, and this time it clearly exposes another incident of denial of Women’s ingenuity. Either the forceps were stolen from Mrs. Poppins, or, to give the Chamberlens the benefit of the doubt, the family’s secret was not that well-kept.
Today’s enlightened readers might assume that the forceps was kept a secret for commercial reasons.
The real reason was that the Midwifery Oath, which was taken when getting the license from the local Bishop, stated that the midwife will not use any instrument.