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Celebrating 100 years of the Midwives Act 1918-2018 in Ireland

13 November, 2017

Celebrating 100 years of the Midwives Act 1918-2018 in Ireland

Northern Ireland’s Royal College of Midwives has established a committee of midwives to plan several events in 2018 to celebrate the 100th year of the Midwives Act in Ireland. It is hoped that some of these events will be celebrated jointly with the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).

The first Midwives Act in Ireland, was established in 1918[1]. Midwifery became legally recognised in Britain in 1902, followed by a series of United Kingdom (UK) Midwives Acts in 1926 and 1936. These provided legislation to ensure that only qualified midwives could attend births, however many women continued to seek unqualified midwives as they cost less[2]. These Acts were the birth of a regulated profession and establishment of standards for education and training.

Midwifery is a profession providing care for women in pregnancy and childbirth and has played a significant role throughout history. “It is generally recognised that the midwife has been with us since biblical times and that midwifery is the oldest female occupation and without doubt one of the most important”[3] (Marland, 1993).

During 2018, the RCM in Northern Ireland (NI) will be celebrating 100 years since the Midwives (Ireland) Act, recognising in terms of how midwifery practice has developed and improved. In recognition of this, they plan to hold several events, for example an ecumenical service of thanksgiving and a civic reception to celebrate the role of the midwife.

In addition, the RCM NI is seeking to collate for publication, 100 accounts, experiences and photographs from midwives throughout Ireland, in particular from midwives in Northern Ireland.  They are also interested in collecting some birth stories from women. The very popular TV series, ‘Call the Midwife’ has highlighted how incredible midwives are, touching on some of the difficulties both midwives and mothers experienced when delivering babies in the 1950s in London.  The RCM NI aims to capture interesting stories which reflect changing birth practices influenced by many factors including the inception of the NHS and Northern Ireland’s traumatic times of ‘the troubles’.

Please send your memories to the RCM NI by post to The Royal College of Midwives, 58 Howard Street, Belfast, BT1 6PJ, or by email to centennial@rcm.org.uk or telephone Anne Marie O’Neill on 0300 303 0444. The RCM NI hope that midwives and women respond to this request to help us celebrate the important role of the midwife over the past 100 years.

Please note, content is requested from Northern Ireland only.


[1] Midwives (Ireland) Act 1918

[2] History of Midwifery accessed 10th March 2017 http://memoriesofnursing.uk/articles/midwifery-in-britain-in-the-twentieth-century

[3] Hilary Marland (ed.), The Art of Midwifery: Early Modern Midwives in Europe (London and New York: Routledge, 1993, 1994).

 

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