Historical Bulletin #2 Journal of the American Public Health Association, Vol 5 1915, Boston, Mass

by faithgibson on February 9, 2023

Historical Bulletin #2
Journal of the American Public Health Association,
Vol 5 1915, Boston, Mass

Made available on the Internet
Feb 2000
International Journal of Domiciliary Midwifery

Excerpts from transcript of meeting held December 1914,
Jacksonville, Florida, JAPA , page 700

Doctor Goler

I am only going to speak of what New York has done in order to foist the whole midwife question not only upon itself but upon the South. The midwife ought to be a disappearing institution. Instead of that we are doing something to keep the midwife alive. The midwife ought to be a dead one; we are trying to keep the midwife alive. When we began 18 years ago under our present law, we had 35 midwives in a city of about 120,000 people attending about 40 percent of the births. We now have 8 midwives that attend a little more than 14 percent and every one of our midwives that comes before our board for examination has to pass an examination just as strict as is passed by a third year medical student. We ought not to keep the midwifery alive, we ought to pass her on. She does not belong in this country. That is all I have to say.

Dr. Wm C. Woodward, Washington, DC —the midwife, is, to a certain degree, a disappearing institution in the District of Columbia. At the present time only about 12 precent of the entire number of births are returned by midwives. This has been accomplished by a system of examination begun in 1896. No midwife has been licensed in the District of Columbia to practice without examination, and during that time the number of birth reported by midwives has fallen from about 42 percent to about 12 percent and the number of births occurring in hospitals has increased, the proportionate number indicating that here has been a transference.

In order, (h)owever, to entirely eliminate the midwife, it will be necessary for the government to substitute some cheap service at the time of birth. A women will employ a midwife who will render such services as she can at the time of birth and attend to the women for a certain period after birth, giving many ministrations to the mother and child that no doctor will undertake to furnish. the only way to eliminate the midwife is to furnish some proficient and at least equally cheap service.

A member:

“I would merely like to state the way we feel about the midwife situation in New York City. The midwife at present delivers about 40 percent of all births and they are doing really excellent work. We have them under pretty good control. ….. Their work is checked up constantly. We find that they obey many of the rules perhaps better even than the physicians; for instance, the rule in regard to treating the eyes and matters of that sort. The tendency in New York does not seem to be, I think, toward the abolishment of the midwife. I doubt whether we want to work to that end. What we do want to achieve, through is the education of the midwife, and perhaps some of you know there has been established in connection with Bellevue Hospital, is a training school (for midwives). … Inasmuch as physicians, … do not like the work and usually, as the progress in their practice, give it up as rapidly as they can, it seem to me that we ought to recognize the fact that the midwife is a very useful situation”.