‘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.
American College of Nurse Midwives
Photo Credit: NIH Images from the History of Medicine
I scoured the internet and could not find a comprehensive biography for Hattie Hemschemeyer. Below I compile information from multiple sources – if others have access to additional information, please share, and I will update Hattie’s information below! Most of what I cobbled together comes from a great history review of Nurse-Midwifery published in JMWH: all direct quotes come from this article.
Hattie Hemschemeyer was one of the first graduates of the Lobenstine Midwifery Clinic and School in New York City (1932), an education program started by Ralph Lobenstine, MD, the second recognized midwifery education program and midwifery service in the United States. Lobenstine, the first President of Maternity Center Association’s Medical Board, “suggested in the American Journal of Public Health that educating nurses to manage normal labor would reduce infant mortality.” Hattie was not only one of the first graduates, but she then became director of the Lobenstine service.
In 1940, Miss Hemschemeyer convened a meeting of Nurse-Midwives under the name National Association of Certified Nurse-Midwives, “to represent the approximately 200 nursemidwives and provide guidance for their education programs and practice,” though the group never met again. In 1944, Hattie recognized that the existing American Association of Nurse Midwives, started by the Kentucky State Association of Midwives, did not allow African American midwives as members, and it did not set standards for midwifery practice, so she worked to create a nurse-midwifery section within the National Organization of Public Health Nurses, which was open to nurses of color. This umbrella organization ultimately dissolved when the American Nurses Association and the National League of Nursing became the two major nursing organizations in the United States.
In 1954, Hattie and fellow midwife Sister M. Theophane Shoemaker called for a meeting of nurse-midwives at the American Nurses Association meeting, where they explored creating an autonomous national organization of nurse-midwives. Ultimately, in 1955, the American College of Nurse-Midwifery was formed, and at the founding meeting, Hattie Hemschemeyer was elected the very first President. During her term, ACNM was accepted into the International Confederation of Midwives, and the group “established committees to draft a definition of the nurse-midwife and of nurse-midwifery practice; a philosophy of nurse-midwifery; Functions, Standards, and Qualifications; and to explore a process for accrediting education programs.”
Hattie Hemschemeyer’s first letter to ACNM members is available here, with an excerpt below:
“…Membership carries with it the need for deliberation and thoughtful action on our part. The college must select carefully the work it undertakes and then do well the work it has undertaken. We need to work with dedication and conviction. We are beginning at a time when education has concentrated too heavily on techniques and too little on the human factors involved. It is essential that education relate in a responsible and practical way with the problems and moral issues of our times…
As I looked over the membership list, I was proud of the number of nurse-midwives who have this capacity. They have demonstrated their abilities by attacking problems in nursing, midwifery, and in obstetrics in such ways that human needs were met. The nurse-midwives have not substituted rationalization nor routines for reason: they have not been helpless when it comes to effecting mass movements for the care of human beings where helplessness, faith in reason, responsibility, and the dignity of the individual were concerned. They know the difference between supplying verbal allegiance and action…”
Hattie Hemschemeyer has an ACNM award given in her honor at each annual ACNM meeting.
The Hattie Hemschemeyer Award is the highest recognition the American College of Nurse-Midwives can bestow on one of its members. It was established in 1977 in the name of the first President of the ACNM. It is a mechanism for the College to honor Certified Nurse-Midwives who have made outstanding contributions to nurse-midwifery in the United States.
The Hattie Hemschemeyer Award honors an exceptional CNM/CM who is an ACNM member, has been certified for at least ten years, and has provided either continuous outstanding contributions or distinguished service to midwifery and/or MCH, or contributions of historical significance to the development and advancement of midwifery, ACNM, or MCH.
Frontier School of Midwifery
Photo Credit: Frontier Nursing University
From her biography on Childbirth Connection:
Kitty Ernst is a certified nurse-midwife, graduate of Kentucky’s Frontier School of Midwifery, with a Master’s Degree in Public Health. For over 40 years she has been a pioneer in both the field of midwifery and in developing the best care possible for families in pregnancy and birth. An early president and active member of the American College of Nurse-Midwives, she conducted the first wave of accreditation for nurse-midwifery education programs and developed the first “What is a Nurse-Midwife?” brochure. As a practitioner, she served families in capacities ranging from public health nurse midwife in the mountains of Kentucky to director of the nurse-midwifery service and education program at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, in the heart of New York City.
While starting her own family she began working as a consultant, lecturer and parent educator, teaching some of the first childbirth education groups of the International Childbirth Education Association. As a field consultant committed to innovation for the sake of healthy families, she developed family-centered maternity care provided by an obstetrician nurse-midwife team at the Salvation Army Booth Maternity Center in Philadelphia. She directed a project to develop and evaluate a program of Self-Care/Self Help Education Initiated in Childbirth and assisted in planning and implementation of the demonstration Childbearing Center at Childbirth Connection. She led the way in inspiring and coaching the many birth centers that followed.
She conducted a national on-site survey of freestanding birth centers and provided consultation for First National Collaborative Study of Freestanding Birth Centers. As Director of the National Association of Childbearing Centers (NACC) she continued to be a leader in the effort to bring birth centers into the mainstream of health care delivery and helped to institute the Commission for Accreditation of Freestanding Birth Centers. During this time she also served a term as Vice President of ACNM. Meanwhile as the Director of the pilot Community-based Nurse-Midwifery Education Program (CNEP), she developed a model for meeting the overwhelming need for experienced birth center nurse-midwives committed to innovative family-centered maternity care. She brought this model to a new arena as the chair of the ACNM National Commission on Nurse-Midwifery Education. Currently she serves as faculty member of CNEP, Director of the NACC Consulting Group, and occupies the only endowed chair in the profession, the Mary Breckinridge Chair of Midwifery. She is recipient of awards such as the Martha Mae Elliot Award for Exceptional Health Service to Mothers and Children from the American Public Health Association, The Hattie Hemschemeyer Award from the American College of Nurse Midwives, and the Childbirth Connection Medal for Distinguished Service.
Kitty Ernst has an ACNM award given in her honor at each annual ACNM meeting.
“The Kitty Ernst Award honors an exceptional, relatively new CNM/CM who is an ACNM member, has been certified for less than ten years, and has demonstrated innovative, creative endeavors in midwifery and/or women’s health clinical practice, education, administration, or research.”
The Birth Place / Commonsense Childbirth, Inc.
Photo Credit: Into These Hands
From her biography at Commonsense Childbirth:
Jennie Joseph is a British-trained midwife, a women’s health advocate, the founder and executive director of Commonsense Childbirth Inc. and the creator of The JJ Way®.* She moved to the United States in 1989 and began a journey that has culminated in the formation of an innovative maternal child healthcare system, markedly improving birth outcomes for women in Central Florida.
Jennie has worked extensively in European hospitals, American birth centers, clinics and homebirth environments. She has been instrumental in the regulation of Florida midwives since the 1990′s and has been involved in midwifery education since 1995. She is the chair of Florida’s State Council of Licensed Midwives. Currently she owns a Florida licensed midwifery school attached to The Birth Place, her nationally renowned birth center and maternity medical home in Winter Garden, Florida.
Due to the high prematurity rates experienced by low income and uninsured women she established an outreach clinic for pregnant women who are at risk of not receiving prenatal care. Her ‘Easy Access’ Prenatal Care Clinics offer quality maternity care for all, regardless of their choice of delivery-site or ability to pay, and have successfully reduced both maternal and infant morbidity and mortality in Central Florida. The Birth Place offers a unique opportunity for pregnant women to choose the site, setting and type of provider for their prenatal care and the delivery of their baby. Working in partnership with women by raising their status from patient to client, Jennie has empowered them to be proactive about their treatment and care. Fathers, family members, and friends are brought in as part of the mother’s team and engaged in the goal of helping her achieve a healthy, full-term pregnancy.
Jennie has pressed for linkages and collaboration with other public and private agencies in an effort to maintain continuity of care for the safety of her clients but also in order to bridge the gap between America’s maternity care practitioners. She has developed and administers perinatal professional training and certification programs to address the health care provider shortage, diversify the maternal child health (MCH) workforce and address persistent racial and class disparities in birth outcomes. There are both quantitative and qualitative studies underway regarding Jennie’s work as well as continuous reviews of the impact of her clinical and educational programs. Jennie’s model of health care, The JJ Way®, provides an evidence-based system to deliver MCH services which improve health, reduce costs and produce better outcomes all round.
Jennie Joseph has built up a reputation across the United States and has given numerous presentations, including a Congressional briefing on Capitol Hill, in order to discuss the statistical data as well as describe practical solutions to improving birth outcomes. Jennie is a regular presenter at maternal child health conferences and organizations; she has a leadership position amongst US and international midwives movements and is a subject matter expert on racial and perinatal disparities in the USA.
Jennie firmly believes in patient-centered, woman-centered care and works tirelessly to support the systems, providers and agencies charged with delivering that type of care. “Until women and their loved ones feel that they have enough knowledge and agency to be part of the decisions around their care and until they have access to the education and support that they are lacking, they will continue to be at risk.”-Jennie Joseph
*The goal of The JJ Way® is to eliminate racial and class disparities in perinatal health and improve birth outcomes for all. Key objectives of The JJ Way® are for pregnancies to reach a gestation of 37 weeks or greater and for newborns to have a birth weight of 5 lbs. 8 oz or greater, for women (and their families) to bond well to their babies and to start and succeed at breastfeeding. The JJ Way’s innovative model builds on the strengths of the Midwives Model of Care to reach a population that does not typically seek midwifery services.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services
From her biography at Frontier University:
Maria Valentin-Welch is presently the State Maternal Health Consultant for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. She has over 30 years of public health, clinical, and didactic teaching experience.
Ms. Valentin-Welch has worked as a CNM teaching residents at Duke University, and as a Clinical Faculty Instructor plus Clinical Assistant Professor at Boston University, where she taught Student Nurse-Midwives and Student Nurse Practitioners.
Within the American College of Nurse-Midwives, Maria formerly chaired the “Midwives of Color Committee” (MOCC) and currently chairs the “Friends of MOCC and Ethnic Diversity Caucus.” During her tenure as the chair of MOCC, she accomplished the following: Restructuring of MOCC to be in compliance with ACNM bylaws; structuring a new Caucus; published a historic document about the origin of the MOCC; created a mentoring program for students of color, and the Archive Subcommittee, Mentoring Subcommittee, and the Health Disparity Subcommittee.
Maria believes “Midwifery is Public Health” and that midwives can provide care not only in clinical settings but also in public health settings at the local, state, and national levels. She also believes education is one of the keys out of poverty and that everyone is born with leadership potential.
Read a blog post co-authored by Maria, celebrating midwives in honor of Black History Month in 2013.
Royal College of Midwives
Photo Credit: Getty Images
From her biography as President of the RCM:
Lesley is passionate about midwifery, midwives and women. She has been a midwife for over 40 years having qualified in 1966. She has worked in Canada and the United Kingdom as a clinical midwife, an educationalist, an academic researcher, an author, a speaker and a midwife manager, often all at the same time. At the end of 2006 she retired from the post of joint Head of Midwifery Services at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. She remains a Visiting Professor of Midwifery at the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery, Kings College London, and continues to practise.
Throughout her career Lesley earned respect for pioneering new ways of organising midwifery care which emphasised the needs of women first. She has been instrumental in changing the culture that enabled others to then implement the radical changes to how maternity services are organised. She has always acted as an advocate for women, ensuring that their voice was heard and their views taken in to account at a time when women’s needs were not seen as central to the provision of maternity services. She has worked with other esteemed colleagues to design and deliver a model of care that provides continuity of care and carer for women and their families. This culminated in the development of the one-to-one midwifery practice in West London in 1993 which was evaluated and reported on in-depth in 1996. This model continues to be taken up and extended to meet the needs of local populations across the country. It reduces duplication of services and has proved an effective and efficient use of resources.
For over 20 years Lesley has worked closely with the Royal College of Midwives. She has been the voice of midwifery on a wide range of expert groups and committees. In 1992 she was appointed by the Secretary of State for Health to the Government’s Expert Maternity Group. She was the only midwife member of the group and was influential in ensuring that the report “Changing Childbirth”, published in 1993, put in place the strategy for taking forward the maternity services that placed the needs of women firmly at the centre. This provided a framework for women and midwives to work together to take back control of pregnancy and childbirth.
In 2003 Lesley was appointed as the specialist adviser to the House of Commons sub-committee responsible for investigating the state of maternity services.
She has recently been appointed as expert adviser to the Kings Fund Inquiry into the safety of maternity services. The final report is due in 2008.
Lesley has continued to build on the model of research in practice, with one known midwife caring for one woman. She is part of the team developing and evaluating a community based caseload midwifery programme for the women in Kennington, Riverside and Deptford. This was launched in 2005. Midwives are carrying a caseload of pregnant women, working in group practices delivering a women-centred service tailored to individual needs.
Lesley has inspired and motivated many others throughout her career, often her work has provided the catalyst for others to go on to implement wide ranging improvements in maternity care, long may she continue to do so.
The Council, with much pleasure, adds Lesley’s name to the Register of Honorary Fellows of the RCM.