Roisin Donohoe

PhD Candidate
Roisin Donohoe

I am a Cambridge Trust-supported PhD Candidate at Jesus College, examining the beliefs and practices associated with childbirth in England from c.1450 to c.1550.

I completed undergraduate degrees in English Literature and Philosophy in 2015 and an MPhil in Medieval Literature, Language and Culture in 2017, both at Trinity College Dublin.

My research investigates religious, medical and cultural beliefs and practices surrounding childbirth in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century England, including the ways in which the birth itself was treated in both the domestic and public sphere across social strata. I am particularly interested in the impact of the English Reformation on reproductive healthcare practices, domestic devotion and the rituals associated with parturiency that were fundamental to the management of childbirth during this period. This is an interdisciplinary research project which draws together devotional material and visual culture with legal, medical, didactic and literary texts.

The research seeks to contribute to a deeper understanding of the childbirth experience in late medieval and early modern England, highlighting the various ways in which the individual, the family and the community managed parturiency. It incorporates approaches drawn from the history of the body, history of medicine, history of emotions, gender history, codicology and material culture studies.

Part II: Paper 13 - Man, Nature and the Supernatural c.1000 to c.1600

Some key talks and presentations:

'Measures of oure Lady': The Virgin's Girdle and Childbirth in Late Medieval England (International Medieval Congress, 2020)

‘This stone in vertu is a cordial’: The Use of Precious Stones in English Childbirth Rituals, 1450-1550 (Gender and Medieval Studies Conference, 2020)

‘A solemn relic sent to women travailing’: Childbirth and the Church in late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century England (Maternal Influences in the Medieval and Early Modern World Conference, 2019)

Risk and Ritual: The Hidden World of Medieval Childbirth (International Women’s Day at The Douglas Hyde Gallery, 2018 / The Fortieth at Jesus College, 2019)

‘… unbynde her anoone’: The Lives of St Margaret of Antioch and the Lying-in Space in Late Medieval England (Gender and Medieval Studies Conference, 2017)


Tags & Themes


Jesus College, Cambridge, CB5 8BL


Key publications

‘My best shete’: Linen and Childbirth in England, 1450-1650, in Maternal Materialities: Objects, Rituals and Material Evidence of Medieval and Early Modern Childbirth, ed. Costanza Dopfel (Turnhout: Brepols, 2021, forthcoming).

‘“Unbynde Her Anoone”: The Lives of St. Margaret of Antioch and the Lying-in Space in Late Medieval England’, in Gender in Medieval Places, Spaces and Thresholds, ed. Victoria Blud, Diane Heath, and Einat Klafter (London: Institute of Historical Research, 2019), pp. 139–56.