The Australian College of Midwives is proud to launch a very exciting project in the form of an accessible, online website to promote knowledge and appreciation of the history of midwifery and childbirth in Australia, and the Australian College of Midwives. 

The importance of preserving the history and heritage materials of an organisation or a group is important
so that those that come after might know and learn their stories, understand their culture, and make informed choices about their future.

This preservation and sharing is at the heart of the Australian Midwifery History Project.

District Midwives from Womens Hospital Crown St., Sydney

Annie Hamilton [Granny Annie] at Corranderrk

National Midwives Assoc., First Conference 1979

“…we stand on the shoulders of the giants and in awe of those who have gone before…”

The history of midwifery has been described as an unrecognised one with “honourable traditions… replete with heroes, villains and uncomfortable truths… with narratives, awaiting investigation, of remarkable and invisible women who attended to others in the most difficult of circumstances in Australian settler society”.[1] 

But midwives are not often taught their history.

Although midwifery is currently reclaiming its unique professional identity and the Australian College of Midwives recently declared “…we stand on the shoulders of the giants and in awe of those who have gone before…”, we often lack the evidence that should fully inform that statement.[2]  In midwifery, there is no Florence Nightingale iconic hero, but instead a Dickensian caricature of midwife Sairy Gamp – drunken, slovenly, rough, and incompetent. Historical context is usually couched in ‘us & them’ stories of subordination and domination by nursing and/or obstetrics, and the most conspicuous place to find midwifery history is often in corners reports.  Women’s work, domestic and home based work, unpaid work, caring work, vocational work, and midwifery work are often invisible in both the historical record and the living world: this website hopes to recognise our pioneers and them visible.

[1] Grehan, Madonna, ‘Heroes or villains? Midwives, nurses, and maternity care in mid-nineteenth century Australia’, Traffic, vol. 11, 2009, pp. 55-72.

[2] Paula Medway, South Australia Branch Chair, Australian College of Midwives (ACM), ‘Midwifery is a rich profession…’, Facebook, 23 May 2017, viewed 26 May 2017 https://www.facebook.com/Australian.College.of.Midwives/