“For the Health of the People:” Public Health and the Compensation of Maternity Leave in the 1910s
Soon after the 1892 Factory Act was implemented, women responded to its restrictive maternity leave clause by working to develop new pieces of legislation that gave women access to financial assistance during maternity leave. This chapter shows how women succeeded in incorporating compensatory maternity leave coverage in Norway’s 1909 and 1915 health insurance laws. It demonstrates how feminists and midwives directly engaged policymakers in their efforts to institute a maternity benefit that included free midwifery, maternity home stays, and covered not only women factory workers, but also the wives of men who worked in industry. They were able to do so largely because they relied on medical arguments that resonated with public health concerns. The chapter shows how these concerns were ubiquitous throughout Europe, and why their translation into law had a different outcome in Norway than in France or Germany.