How Midwives Learn: Origins of the Home Birth Controversy

bbag-icon-decHow Midwives Learn: Origins of the Home Birth Controversy

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Recent media coverage of the increasing popularity of out-of-hospital births in the U.S. has generated a widespread debate about the politics and place of birth. This is not a new phenomenon. In the 1970s, a quiet revolution spread across cities and suburbs, towns and farms, as individuals challenged legal, institutional and medical protocols by choosing unlicensed midwives to catch their babies at home. But just who were these self-proclaimed midwives who seemed to appear overnight, and how did they learn their trade? Because the United States had virtually eliminated midwifery by the mid-twentieth century, most of these newer “rebels” had little knowledge of or exposure to the historic practice, and had to determine for themselves how to define, learn, and teach midwifery skills. This talk examines the creation, controversies, and evolution of the first accredited program for non-nurse midwives in the U.S., the Seattle Midwifery School.


Join us for Wendy Kline’s lecture on Wednesday, September 23, 2015 from noon till 1 pm in person or online.

Wendy Kline, PhD, is the Dema G. Seelye Chair in the History of Medicine in the Department of History at Purdue University. She is the author of several articles and two books: Bodies of Knowledge: Sexuality, Reproduction, and Women’s Health in the Second Wave (University of Chicago Press, 2010) and Building a Better Race: Gender, Sexuality, and Eugenics from the Turn of the Century to the Baby Boom (University of California Press, 2001). Her current book project, under contract with Oxford University Press, is entitled Coming Home: Medicine, Midwives, and the Transformation of Birth in Late-Twentieth-Century America. Two related articles are forthcoming in 2015: “Communicating a New Consciousness: Countercultural Print and the Home Birth Movement in the 1970s,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine and “The Little Manual That Started a Revolution: How Hippie Midwifery Became Mainstream,” in David Kaiser and Patrick McCray, eds., Groovy Science: The Countercultural Embrace of Science and Technology over the Long 1970s. In 2014 Kline was selected as a distinguished lecturer for the Organization of American Historians. She is also a professional violinist, and is currently a member of the Lafayette Symphony Orchestra.

In person: This lecture will take place in C102 Patenge Room in East Fee Hall on MSU’s East Lansing campus. Feel free to bring your lunch! Beverages and light snacks will be provided.

Online: Here are some instructions for your first time joining the webinar, or if you have attended or viewed them before, go to the meeting! *

Can’t make it? All webinars are recorded! View our archive of recorded lectures.

* Please note that as of August 1, 2015, our webinar platform has changed. If you attended a webinar prior to that date, please review the new instructions.