A History Of Midwifery In Pictures

The following photos come from a much larger slide collection I purchased from Janet Isaacs Ashford called "Mothers & Midwives: A History of Traditional Childbirth."
They are presented here purely for educational purposes. Please enjoy.

Ancient Egyptian Birth

Ancient Egyptian women are assisting a woman giving birth. Since time began women have assisted each other to give birth. This is actually a 'relief' sculpture of Cleopatra in the classic upright posture for birth. The woman to the far right is holding a pair of "ankhs" which is the symbolism for "life". The midwife has outstretched arms to receive the baby.


Greek Birth

This ancient Greek sculpture depicts one of our Greek ancestors in the act of squatting upon a birth stool. Notice the midwife is depicted with hands ready to catch the baby who is just beginning to crown.


Rural Birth

Here a farmer's wife gives birth at home in rural Ohio. This is a drawing by George Engelmann around 1882.


Pioneer Birth

This Pennsylvanian pioneer wife reclines upon her husband for support while the midwife catches the baby. Note the upright position and the women who attend her.


Sioux Birth

Birth customs of the Sioux. Mom gives birth standing up, facing her husband. The midwife catches the baby from behind. Note the husband's intense involvement with his wife's labor. This picture was drawn around 1887. Witowski.


Nigerian Birth

Note the upright position adopted by Nigerian women. U.E. Egwatuatu.


Gypsy Birth

This is a birth scene from a Gypsy encampment. Notice how the woman is surrounded by other women who support her in her birth.


Mary Breckenridge

Mary Breckenridge

After Dr. Delee's slander campaign against the midwives and his successful campaign to scare our grandmothers to the hospital so that resident physicians might learn and have women to experiment upon during birth, Mary Breckenridge became the first American nurse midwife. She rode on horseback & delivered over 1000 babies in rural Kentucky. She founded The Frontier Nursing Service to provide isolated families with health care. There were no maternal deaths due to labor despite the fact these women lived in the Appalachian mountains and the nurse midwives delivered these women in their own home!
What is more amazing regarding this statistic is that if you delivered in the hospital at that time, maternal mortality was about 50 per 1000 women. WELL DONE MARY!!


Kiowa Birth

A Kiowa birth surrounded by the spirit of the night skies, the buffalo, the horse, the coyote and the owl.


Painting by Cindy Pink

A 1982 painting by Cindy Pink who needed to heal after an unhappy hospital birth experience.


Home Birth Painting

A home birth painting that depicts the close support of loved ones and labor companions and a midwife. David Fletcher.


Sacred Birth

Ina May Gaskin, Jeanine Parvati Baker, Nan Koehler, and Midwifery Today Magazine, have kept the flame of midwifery alive.
When choosing your home birth midwife...Does she honor and respect you? Do you have a mutually trusting relationship? Do you enjoy listening to her nutritional or pregnancy guidance? Do you understand what she is saying, and does she understand you? Home birth is a two way phenomena. It is about TRUST; trust in yourself, trust in your midwife and her ability to meet your needs spiritually, physically,and emotionally during the natural vulnerability of labor and birth. Your midwife needs to trust you. Do you feel that trust in her words and actions? You then take responsibility for the creation of your own health and well being. It is your birth. Why give it away?


Breastfeeding Ad

Nancy Sullivan, CNM found this lovely breastfeeding advertisement on a city bus in Italy, which The Birth Gazette published for us in the Summer 1999 issue.

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