The article addresses an endeavor by Serviço Especial de Saúde Pública (Sesp) to train folk midwives who worked in rural communities and to exercise control over these women's activities. The task was entrusted to the agency's prenatal and child hygiene programs, established between the 1940s and 1960s. The agency believed this training and control initiative would be of major importance in helping ensure the success of its project to establish local sanitary services offering mother-child assistance. The goal of working directly with the folk midwives was not only to force them to employ strict hygiene standards when delivering and caring for newborns but especially to use their influence and prestige within these communities to convince the general population to adopt good health practices.
midwives; hygiene; mother-child health; public health; Brazil