Sleep Fictions: A Digital Companion


One of the unnamed commentators in "Mrs. Merrill's Duties" likens the protagonist's new invention to "twilight sleep," a turn-of-the-century practice of injecting a woman-in-labor with a morphine mixture to induce anesthetized, amnesiac sleep. The practice even inspired the title of Edith Wharton's 1927 novel.

Twilight sleep was somewhat controversial, as evinced in a 1915 New York Times article, which obverse: "American opinion on the whole . . . is against twilight sleep," while the subject interviewed passionately supported the practice (Hanna Rion, a woman who spent three months observing Dr. Carl J. Gauss at "the home of twilight sleep" in Freiburg Maternity Hospital in Germany). Some standout passages: That same year, physician A. Smith published Twilight Sleep in America: The Truth about Painless Childbirth*. The study provides a thorough snapshot of the twilight sleep controversy that unfolded in the mid-1910's in popular print publications like McClure's Magazine.


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