Jesse Bennett, sometimes spelled Bennet, practiced medicine in the US during the late eighteenth century and performed one of the first successful cesarean operations, later called cesarean sections, in 1794. Following complications during his wife’s childbirth, Bennett made an incision through her lower abdomen and uterus to deliver their infant. Bennett’s biographers report that his operation was the first cesarean section where both the pregnant woman and the infant survived. Previously, physicians used cesarean sections to save the fetus from a pregnant woman who had already died during childbirth. Bennett successfully performed a cesarean section, a procedure used worldwide in the twenty-first century when a vaginal delivery is not possible or would pose a risk to the woman or fetus.
In the fifteen years between the discovery of fetal alcohol syndrome, or FAS, in 1973 and the passage of alcohol beverage warning labels in 1988, FAS transformed from a medical diagnosis between practitioner and pregnant women to a broader societal risk imbued with political and cultural meaning. In this dissertation, I examine how scientific, social, moral, and political narratives dynamically interacted to construct the risk of drinking during pregnancy and the public health response of health warning labels on alcohol.