Madame du Coudray was born in 1712 in Clermont-Ferrand. She worked as a midwife in Paris before returning to her native Auvergne, where she put her educational skills to good use by teaching obstetrics, aiming to combat the ignorance of the matrons who held sway in country villages. In 1759, she published a book "Abrégé de l’Art des Accouchements" which was beautifully illustrated with colour prints.
To combine theory and practice, she invented the famous demonstration "machine" - a mannequin on which students could practise during their two-month training programme. This practical approach to obstetrics stemmed from Madame Du Coudray’s desire to give "palpable" lessons, as she was dealing with ill-educated country women and "minds unaccustomed to grasping things except through the senses".
At the age of 50, the proud possessor of a royal warrant authorising her to teach all over the kingdom, this strong-willed woman embarked upon an obstetrical "tour de France" which was to last 25 years. She is estimated to have trained over 5,000 midwives and surgeons who then carried on her teachings.