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The membership of the American College of Nurse-Midwives has been characterized from the beginning by its dedication, commitment, hard work, articulateness, personal sacrifice, vision, and pioneering spirit. The annals of the ACNM's brief history are peopled with creative giants who were also willing to do the necessary detail work while dipping into their own pocketbooks to finance it. Starting with a charter membership of 124, the ACNM had grown to a membership of 860 by its twentieth anniversary in 1975. By 1980 the membership, now including students, had increased to over 1500, by 1984 to 2534, and by 2000 to over 7000. This figure reflects the fact that approximately 87 percent of the total number of certified nurse-midwives belong to the ACNM. Seventeen nurse-midwives attended the first annual meeting in Kansas City in 1955; 291 members were in attendance at the twentieth annual meeting in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1975. Convention attendance first passed the 1000 mark with 863 members and 138 guests in Philadelphia in 1984.
The rapid expansion of nurse-midwifery and proliferation of nurse-midwives placed stress on the professional organization. The total number of nurse-midwives had tripled in less than 10 years (1975-1984). The organization was faced with having to change from a small, intimate group of hard-working, dedicated nurse-midwives with a relatively simple organizational structure and management style that could cope with a rapid increase in membership without losing its dedication and ideals. This was done. The productivity of the American College of Nurse-Midwives since its founding in 1955 is inspirational and shows what a small group can do.
The ACNM has undergirded midwifery: education, practice, recognition, legislation, credentialing, insurance, communication, research, and interprofessional and interorganizational relationships. The founding of the ACNM was described as follows: "To support individual efforts the nurse-midwives have banded together. . . . This provides them with an official mouthpiece for education, a base for common planning and discussion". Almost a century ago the lack of any national organizations, journals, system of education, legal recognition, or access to the health care system led to the "midwife problem and debate." Today the ACNM provides or works for all of these mechanisms of survival for the profession of midwifery. The ACNM exists to "promote the health and well-being of women and infants within their families and communities through the development and support of the profession of midwifery as practiced by certified nurse-midwives, and certified midwives". The ACNM speaks for the profession of midwifery. Although the ACNM is an autonomous professional organization, it collaborates with all other professional organizations and groups that share its primary concern of quality health care for all women and babies.