However, these highly skilled midwives have not always been given the credit that is rightly theirs by the male dominated medical community. History shows that midwives in America have been forced out of their practices and been falsely accused of harming mothers and babies, when quite the opposite was true.
It is important to know and understand the history of midwifery care. Midwives have not only given medical care to families, but have been the back bone of communities providing nurturing and wisdom.
In American the role of midwife has been minimized. Historically midwives were not college educated. Midwifery skills have traditionally been passed from one woman to another within families, grandmothers to mothers to daughters, and also through apprenticeships. This type of educational training has not been valued or seen as legitimate by the Western medical model of training. Non-school trained midwives were an easy group to discredit and the services that they provided were made illegal by educated politically connected White men.
Midwifery care by traditionally trained or lay midwives is still not legal today in all 50 states. It is important to understand and remember the history of midwifery care in America.
Here are a few places to begin. Continue on with your own research.
- Maude Callen, Life Magazine’s photo essay by W. Eugene Smith
- Etta Nichols, Tennesse granny midwife
- Midwifery History in West Virginia
- State of Florida Midwifery History
- Magaret Charles Smith