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Part 1: Session Title
- Lessons From the Past: The Role of the Public Health Nurse and Nurse-Midwife in the Campaign to Eliminate the Midwife

Part 2: Session Length - 1 hour 

Part 3: Teaching/Delivery Method - Education session lecture

Part 4: Behavioral Objectives: 

At the end of this session the learner will be able to:

  1. Apply a broad historical framework to contemporary health care debates; 
  2. Understand and discuss how decisions, made in the past by public health maternity nurses and nurse-midwives, relate to present practice of nurse-midwifery; 
  3. Understand and discuss nurse-midwifery's roots in public health maternity nursing and the major contribution of those nurses to the health of pregnant women during the progressive Era and today; and 
  4. Understand and discuss the role of ideology in the denigration of the midwife and the impact of that campaign on nurse-midwifery today. 

Part 5: Content Outline

I. History of specialization in public health nursing and nurse-midwifery

A. First three decades of the twentieth century

B. Demise of traditional immigrant and African American midwives

C. Efforts of public health nurses to discredit and eliminate traditional midwives

D. Influences of prevailing social and scientific attitudes and beliefs 

II. Rationale and Significance

A. Previous research

1. Campaign to eliminate the midwife

2. Protection of physician income

3. Usurpation of women's traditional role as birth attendant

B. Data on nursing specialization and public health nurses as part of the campaign against midwives

C. Evolution of nurse-midwifery out of public health nursing 

1. Rockefeller Foundation

2. Russell Sage Foundation

D. Significance for nurse-midwives today

1. Economic and professional threats

2. Medicine's attempt to control and restrict practice

3. Internal professional debates

III. Findings, Conclusions and Implications

A. Prenatal care as a major source of income

B. Specialization of public health nursing and nurse-midwifery

C. Campaign to eliminate the traditional midwife in America

D. Prejudicial assumptions used against the midwife

Part 6: Bibliography:

Historical methodology was used in this study. Therefore, many of the sources on this bibliography date from the period of study, 1900-1930. This is particularly true for primary sources which include material from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Philadelphia College of Physicians, the National Organization of Public Health Nursing, the University of Pennsylvania Center for Nursing History, and The Maternity Center Association archives. The Public Health Nurse Quarterly, The Public Health Nurse, The Trained Nurse, The Trained Nurse and Hospital Review, (all volumes between 1915-1930) and the annual proceeding from the American Association for the Study and Prevention of Infant Mortality, 1909-1917, were reviewed and used as primary source material. Secondary sources included more recent journal articles, epidemiological studies of maternal and infant mortality, and histories of nursing, midwifery, nurse-midwifery, and medicine. Many of the pertinent secondary works related to this presentation were published before 1994.

Secondary Sources Modern

  • D'Antonio, P. (199). "Revisiting and Rethinking the Rewriting of Nursing History," The Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 73. P. 268-90.;
  • Ettinger, L.E., (199). "Nurse-Midwives, the Mass Media, and the Politics of Maternal Health Care in the United States, 1925-1955," Nursing History Review, 7, p.47-66.
  • Leavitt, J.W., (1998). "Strange Young Women n Errands," Nursing History Review, 6. P.3-24. 
  • Rooks, J.P., (1997). Childbirth and Midwifery in America. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. 
  • Litoff, J.B. (1996). The American Midwife Debate A Source Book on its Modern Origins. Westport Conn.: Greenwood Press. 
  • Borst, C.G. (1995). Catching Babies: The Professionalization of Childbirth 1; 1870-1920 Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press. 
  • Sklar, K.K., (1995). Florence Kelly and the Nations Work The Rise of Women's Political Culture, 1830-1900.New Haven: Yale University Press. 
  • Thompson, J.E., Walsh, L.V., and Merkatz, I.R. (1990). "The History of Prenatal Care Cultural, Social and Medical Contexts," in Merkatz, I.R., Thompson, J.E., Mullen, P.D., and Goldenberg, R.L., eds. New Perspectives on Prenatal Care. New York: Elsevier . 
  • Longo, L.D., and Thomsen, C.M. (1981). "Prenatal Care and its Evolution in the Americas" in Childbirth the Beginning of Motherhood Proceedings of the Second Motherhood Symposium of the Women's Studies Research Center. Madison, WI.: University of Wisconsin. P. 29-70.
  • Devitt, N. (1979). "The Statistical Case for the Elimination of the Midwife: Fact vs Prejudice, 1890-1035," part 2. Women and Health, 4 No.2. p. 169-187. 
  • Litoff, J.B. (1978) American Midwives 1860 to the Present.. Westport Conn.: Greenwood Press. 
  • Kobrin, Frances (1966). "The American Midwife Controversy: A Crisis of Professionalization," Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 40. vol. 4. P. 350-63. 

Secondary Sources, Progressive Era

  • Levy, J. (1923). "Maternal Mortality and Mortality in the First Month of Life in Relation to Attendant at Birth," American Journal of Public Health, 13. No. 2 p. 88-95. 
  • Van Blarcom, C.C., (1913). The Midwife in England, New York Society for the Prevention of Blindness, No. 13. Philadelphia: The Press of William F. Fell Company, 
  • Noyes, C.C., (1912). "The Training of Midwives in Relation to the Prevention of Infant Mortality," American Journal of Obstetrics and the Diseases of Women, 66. P, 1051-56. 
  • Van Blarcom, C.C., (1014). "Midwives in America," The American Journal of Public Health,4 No. 3. P. 10512-1056. 
  • Taussign, F.J., (1914). "The Nurse-Midwife," Public Health Nurse Quarterly,6, p. 33-39. 
  • Noyes, C.D., (1912). "The Midwifery Problem," American Journal of Nursing, 12. No. 5. P. 466-71. 

Primary Sources

  • Issues of The Public Health Nurse Quarterly (later The Public Health Nurse, January 1915-December 1930 inclusive. 
  • Transactions of the American Association for the Study and Prevention of Infant Mortality for the years 1910 - 1917. 
  • Rockefeller Foundation Archives RG 1.1 Series 100C Box 37 Folders 306-307 Midwifery 1921-32; RG 1.1 Series 401C Box 33-34. RF Minutes, Letters between R.R. Embree and Mary Beard, Beard Report "Study of Maternal Health in England." Series 601L China Public Health Education Series 1.1 Box 45 Folders 371-374 Midwifery Training School 1926-46; and the Diaries of Mary Beard, Edwin R. Embree, and Richard M. Pearce. 
  • National Organization of Public Health Nursing Archives. On Microfilm at the Center for the Study of the History of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania.

Part 7: Faculty Resumes 

Presenter's Name and Biographical Sketch were removed for purposes of sample re-print. 

Part 8: Prior/Other Session Approval 


NOTE: The presenter's permission was obtained in developing and reproducing this sample application. No part of this application may be copied or reproduced without the expressed written permission of the American College of Nurse-Midwives.

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