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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Honoring African-American Midwives Past And Present

Honoring African-American Midwives Past And Present

Black History Month offers women and families a unique opportunity to pay tribute to Black midwives who preserve a cultural legacy of being 'with women,' said the Midwives of Color Committee of the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM). Those traditions and practices are on display at a special exhibition at the Smithsonian's Anacostia Museum and Center for African American History and Culture, through April 2006.

The = 'Reclaiming Midwives: Pillars of Community Support' exhibit chronicles African American midwives as early as the 17th century. The exhibit describes the contributions of midwives such as Mary Francis Hill Coley, a Georgia midwife who is featured in an award-winning documentary 'All My Babies: A Midwife's Own Story,' and Maude Callen, a certified nurse-midwife whose life's work in rural South Carolina is documented in a 1951 Life magazine photo essay.

"Our foremothers handed down rich and lasting traditions, which continue today in midwifery practices large and small, in communities across this country," said Bridget Howard, chair of the ACNM's Midwives of Color Committee. "These traditions, such as our commitment to the health and well-being of the whole family, became the hallmarks of modern midwifery. The exhibit touches the heart and soul of the minority community; looking back at the past shows us how to continue to fight for the future of midwifery. Today's nurse-midwives are highly educated professionals who provide care to women of all ages. And midwives attend more than 10% of vaginal births in the United States."

"The Smithsonian exhibit reminds us of the contribution midwives can make to improving the health of women and babies and eliminating racial disparities in health outcomes," said Deanne R. Williams, CNM, ACNM's executive director. "ACNM members report that 70 percent of the women they see are considered vulnerable by virtue of their age, socioeconomic status, education, or ethnicity. This is a testament to the lessons taught us by Black midwives of the last century, and what makes the Smithsonian exhibit so important today."

To learn more about midwives and midwifery in America, please visit ACNM on the Internet at

With roots dating to 1929, the American College of Nurse-Midwives is the oldest women's health care association in the U.S. ACNM's mission is to promote the health and well-being of women and newborns within their families and communities through the development and support of the profession of midwifery as practiced by certified nurse-midwives and certified midwives. Midwives believe every individual has the right to safe, satisfying health care with respect for human dignity and cultural variations. More information about ACNM can be found at

American College of Nurse-Midwives
8403 Colesville Road, Suite 1550
Silver Spring, MD 20910-6374

ACNM 51st Annual Meeting & Exhibit
May 26 - June 1, 2006 - Salt Lake City, Utah

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