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This article contributes to larger twentieth-century debates on the process of childbirth's medicalization and the increasing insertion of medicine into maternal health. Focusing on Ethiopia, the article describes how the nation's first medical network co-opted women into development schemes, using childbirth and maternity care as symbols for larger concerns about reforming "backward traditions" in the name of socioeconomic progress. Women engaged in this cultural reformation both as medical practitioners and patients, working to "modernize" domestic practices to effect national levels of development and change. Women's participation in medicine, however, was highly restricted: working only as nurses and midwives, women were trained merely to prevent crises of birthing through social education and cultural reform, not "cure" obstetric emergencies common among Ethiopian women. This limitation in modern maternity care in Ethiopia is further evidence of the largely symbolic nature of medicine's insertion in the practices of childbirth.