Midwife History: Articles from the 70s and 80s

I’m looking through articles from 1977 about home birth’s resurgence. So much mirrors that time now as “doula” becomes a common household word and homebirth has increased by 20% even before “The Business of Being Born” came out. One article from 1977 talks about how hospitals were trying to make the hospital experience more like a home birth by keeping the mother and baby together. 35 years later I listen to UCSD Medical Center’s advertisements on the radio about how you can have a birth with midwives at the hospital with the feeling of being in the home setting. If this appeal of having a “natural birth” thing isn’t that new, then what happened between then and now? How did this culture end up at the same point of appealing to the natural but with just shy of a 20% higher cesarean birth rate?

In any case, something is quite appealing to me about home birth midwifery history here in the states . My interest might have started in attending births and realizing how much instinct can be part of labor support and midwifing. I’m sure my interest was aroused in discussions with my midwife, Abby, or even when Jeannine Parvati Baker came and visited and gave a workshop when I was a young mom. My interest also shows up when I realize that my experiences as a birthing mother were part of the local San Diego home birth history that occurred before midwives had been licensed. Also my interest peaked in attending the Midwifery Today conferences, one in Oaxaca, the other in Oregon. Many of the midwives there have so much to impart as far as history – including the history of midwifery prior to it being institutionalized or professionalized. I attended the Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA) conference in Monterrey, California 2-3 years ago, and the midwives of that region put on an opening ceremony that integrated northern California’s midwife history with storytelling. It was poignant. The stories telling. You can still order a copy of these stories at:


No matter how professionalized direct entry midwifery becomes or even doulas become let’s not forget where it all started. It started at home with mothers refusing to go to the hospital. It started with mothers taking initiative and responsibility to birth their baby autonomously and to support one another birthing. So here I’m am going to start posting articles that I find about homebirth from California. Many articles from this time period are missing, feel free to send me copies and I’ll post them up here as well.

Many of of us as midwives are looking to traditional midwifery and the birthing mother’s wisdom thiemselves for ways of learning natural and normal birth. This is wise. However, we are in a time period that we can also forget what happened yesterday in our own backyard in midwifery, doula work or labor support.