‘Famous Midwives’ is a Feminist Midwife blog series to bring awareness to the work of midwives, promote the national and international impact of midwifery, and advertise the images of those known to some by name, to few by face, but to midwives as part of our community. Each “Part” of the series includes midwives considered “famous” by the nature of their work, their contribution to the profession, and their presence as motivators and forward-thinkers and change-makers. Five midwives are included in each “Part,” with great respect for the diversity of the profession’s history and future, attention to the past and the present, and ultimate adoration for the variety of capacities midwives fill in their provision of our dedicated model of care. If you know a famous midwife who should be featured on the series, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.***
President, International Confederation of Midwives (ICM)
Frances Day-Stirk is President of the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), a non-governmental organisation and the voice of global midwifery. ICM represents over 250,000 midwives in 108 midwifery association member in 95 countries. Frances provides leadership of the organisation and together with the members of the ICM board she holds responsibility for the organisations governance, development, viability and achieving its mission.
Jamaican-born Frances received her professional midwifery education and qualifications in the United Kingdom having initially trained as a nurse. Her 30 years of midwifery experience span clinical practice, education, maternity service management and global midwifery. She has published on a wide range of topics and presented at conferences nationally and internationally.
She is a former member of the Executive Management Team of the Royal College of Midwives in the United Kingdom, with a remit for professional standards, policy education, research and international relations. She has been part of numerous committees and also chaired several of them.
Her professional interests include organisation of maternity services, women’s choice in place of birth, homebirth, promoting normality, new born care and global maternal and newborn health safe motherhood.
On a personal note she has three children who were all born at home and a grandson.
Read more here about the International Confederation of Midwives.
Read more here about the Royal College of Midwives.
Marinah Valenzuela Farrell
President, Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA)
Marinah’s favorite formative memories are political inquiry from a very young age and walks with her grandfather and mother looking for healing plants in the deserts and mountains of the southwest and Mexico. Politics and traditional medicine are what led Marinah to midwifery, and she has a firm commitment to both political activism and birth work. Marinah has been the president of various non-profit boards, has worked in waterbirth centers and medical facilities for international NGOs, in free-standing birth centers in the U.S, and has been the owner of a long standing homebirth practice. Marinah also works with various local grassroots organizations in Arizona such as the Phoenix Allies for Community Health, a free clinic in downtown Phoenix, and assists in collective endeavors with other grassroots groups. Marinah is focused on the issue of lack of access to midwives and the profession of midwifery in communities where health disparities are overwhelming, as well as training in cultural safety. Marinah also continues to work with traditional midwives outside of the U.S and bridges traditional Mexican and Indigenous medicine/healing with western science and professional midwifery.
Read more about the Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA).
President, American College of Nurse-Midwives
Ginger Breedlove is a professor of graduate nursing at the Eleanor Wade Custer School of Nursing at Shenandoah University in Winchester, VA. She received her midwifery education from the Medical University of South Carolina and her PhD from the University of Missouri – Kansas City. She co-founded the first free-standing birth center in Kansas and established the first nurse-midwifery practice in the greater Kansas City metro area. Breedlove also co-established and served as program director of the University of Kansas nurse-midwifery education program and has served as a volunteer leader of the Kansas March of Dimes, a charter member of the Kansas Maternal Child Health Coalition, and a consultant to AMOS Health and Hope in Managua, Nicaragua. She has served 2 previous terms on the ACNM Board of Directors as secretary.
Breedlove has been published in numerous scientific journals including the Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, the Journal of Perinatal Education, and the Western Journal of Nursing Research. She co-authored The Community Based Doula: Supporting Families Before, During and After Birth and has been interviewed by Oprah and Preventionmagazines.
Read more about the American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM).
Professor, University of Dundee
Mary Renfrew has recently been appointed as Professor of Mother and Infant Health at the University of Dundee, College of Medicine, Dentistry and Nursing. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh, Prof Renfrew is a health researcher with a clinical background in midwifery. She has previously worked in the universities of York, Leeds, and Oxford, and in Alberta, Canada, for the MRC Reproductive Biology Unit in Edinburgh, and for the NHS in Edinburgh and Oxford. She founded the Mother and Infant Research Unit – a multidisciplinary unit examining ways of improving the health and wellbeing of childbearing women, babies and families and tackling inequalities – and led it for 17 years until her move to Dundee. Her research and implementation programmes have been supported by external funds of over £10 million, in fields including maternal and infant nutrition, care in pregnancy, birth and postpartum, neonatal care, the engagement of lay perspectives in research, and evidence-based policy and practice. Her work has been funded by agencies including Research Councils, the National Institute for Health Research, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, the Department of Health, Quality Improvement Scotland, and UNICEF UK. She has co-authored or edited seven books and around 120 peer reviewed publications. She is currently principal investigator for a global collaboration to produce a Special Series for The Lancet on the contribution of midwifery to maternal and infant survival, health and wellbeing, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She collaborates with lay, professional and academic colleagues nationally and internationally.
Prof Renfrew has been a member of two RAE panels; co-editor of the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group; member of editorial boards of journals including BioMed Central, Midwifery, Journal of Clinical Effectiveness in Nursing, and Maternal and Child Nutrition. She has been Chair of the UK Breastfeeding Manifesto Steering Group, Chair of the Board of Best Beginnings, Chair of the WHO Maternal and Newborn Strategic Committee, and an inaugural Senior Investigator for the National Institute for Health Research. She is a member of the Research Strategy Committee for the International Confederation of Midwives and a Board member for UNICEF UK.
In her new post in Dundee, she is establishing a multidisciplinary programme of work on tackling inequalities in maternal and infant health and early years.
Founder and Executive Director, Yayasan Bumi Sehat Birth Center
From her biography on Midwifery Today:
Robin Lim is a mother, grandmother, author, poet, midwife and educator who lives in Bali with her husband and children. Ibu (mother) Robin is a Certified Professional Midwife, with the North American Registry of Midwives and Ikatan Bidan Indonesia. She is a founder and executive director for Yayasan Bumi Sehat Birth Center in Bali. Lim splits her time between the birth center and the Tsunami Relief Clinic in Aceh, Sumatra. Along with receiving babies, Ibu Robin is an author. Many of her articles, stories and poems have been published in Midwifery Today magazine and The Birthkit newsletter. Lim received the 2011 CNN Hero of the Year award for her work over the last decade, serving the poor and medically disenfranchised citizens of Indonesia. She has also been given the 2006 Alexander Langer International Peace Award, notably for her efforts directed at granting caring, competent support to birthing mothers and a non-violent birth to their children.
To donate to Yayasan Bumi Sehat Birth Center, visit robinlimsupport.org/
***The back story to the Famous Midwives series…
I recently had this (albeit, goofy) idea to create a March Madness Midwife Bracket, as a way to bring awareness to different “famous” midwives and their contributions to midwifery: past, present, and future. But I struggled to find a common theme by which one midwife might “beat” the other, with one ultimate “famous” midwives to win it all. How could I ever choose, and, regardless, who was I to choose such a thing? These are my thoughts, when my midwifery mind crosses over with my personal love of competition and sports.
BUT THEN, I realized, it could be all in fun! And I got to work at making “the list,” of midwives who hit the radar as fantastic and important and changemakers. BUT THEN, I realized, who I consider famous might very well be different than who others consider famous. So, at work one day, I polled a few people. When asked the question, “Name five famous midwives!?”, the response consistently was, “Umm…. Varney?” This happened with three different midwives. Great clinicians, fantastic teachers, awesome friends… totally unable to name others in their same profession.
Say what?!?!?! I realize I am a total midwife geek: every midwife or ob/gyn-related meeting I attend, I look around and get star struck, stumble over my words, and awkwardly ask for photos (see this one of myself and Sharon Shindler Rising from an ACNM meeting a few years ago, then with Geradine Simkins… the list goes on!). However, to have midwife friends who can’t name five?!?! I cannot let this stand. (The next day I went to Facebook, and, thank goodness, the call for a list of five famous midwives brought forth more than a hundred!) And, what a diverse list it was!
To me, this is an obvious call to draw attention to the coolest of the cool, the awesomest of the awesome, midwives. Not only is the profession of midwifery at a turning point in its evidence-based model of care, with more individuals choosing midwives than ever before, but we are at an all time high midwife graduation rate, Thus, today is born a new series here at Feminist Midwife. “Famous Midwives: Part…” will now occur weekly, with five famous midwives listed, to draw attention to our profession, the individuals who make it what it is, and the incredible work midwifery brings to people, families, communities, the world, academia, technology, and healthcare.