Midwife of the Week: Hanna Porn

norfolk county courthouse

A historical Massachusetts courthouse.

Hannah Porn, a Finnish immigrant who trained at the Chicago Midwife Institute, practiced in Gardner, Massachusetts, serving mostly immigrants’ and laborers’ wives. Family practice doctors in the area felt that Porn’s very successful midwifery practice cut into physicians’ work attending births. At their instigation, Hannah was repeatedly arrested, undergoing four court trials in ten years. She left no writings to tell her story, but in 1908 was quoted as saying, “The reason I continued the business, after being told by the court to stop the work, is that I thought the law is unjust.” At the end of this trial she was convicted of practicing medicine without a license and sentenced to three months in prison. However, Hannah never gave up her practice; municipal birth records show that she attended the birth of a baby boy the very day of her death. For a detailed article on Hannah Porn, see Eugene R. Declercq’s article, The Trials of Hanna Porn: The Campaign to Abolish Midwifery in Massachusetts.

This Midwife of the Week post was written by Valerie Meharg. It originated on FoMM’s Facebook page and is archived here on our website for your continued enjoyment!


Midwife of the Week: Elizabeth Gilmore

elizabethgilmoreAfter her childhood in Tepoztlan, Mexico, Elizabeth Gilmore moved to Martha’s Vineyard in 1971 to attend boarding school. When the time came to have children, Elizabeth was unable to find a home-birth friendly care provider. In an effort to inform the community about home-birth and midwifery, she and three other women formed the Martha’s Vineyard Education for Childbirth Association. She delved into research to prepare herself to deliver her second child at home, and soon began to attend her friends’ home births.
In 1977, Elizabeth and her family relocated to New Mexico. Very soon she found herself in the fight to keep direct-entry midwifery legal and to clearly define the role and scope of the modern midwife. She and Tish Demmin co-founded the New Mexico Midwives Association to organize this endeavor. Elizabeth opened the New Mexico Birthing Center in 1978 and worked there until her retirement in 2001. With her strong belief that “[w]e must remove barriers to midwifery education in order to improve outcomes for mothers and babies,” Elizabeth founded the National College of Midwifery in 1989. The school was later accredited by the Midwifery Education and Accreditation Council (MEAC). MEAC is yet another organization that Elizabeth helped co-found; she also served as its first president.
Elizabeth Gilmore passed away from brain cancer on August 7, 2011. To learn more about her life, visit this profile.

This Midwife of the Week post was written by Valerie Meharg. It originated on FoMM’s Facebook page and is archived here on our website for your continued enjoyment!

Midwife of the Week: Aviva Romm

Aviva Romm’s professional story begins: “Midwife. MD. Herbalist. Ecologist. Activist. Mom.” A Yale educated MD, Aviva has turned these identities, skills, and backgrounds into woman-centered, socially and environmentally conscious, holistic care. Aviva practices what she calls “good medicine,” and hopes to see a shift away from over-medicalization toward a model that “respects the intrinsic healing capacities of the body and nature.” She has written seven highly renowned health and pregnancy books, is the founder of Yale’s Integrative Medicine Program, and the creator of Woman Wise, an online curriculum for women from all walks of life. Here is an article about why Aviva would still choose a home birth even after all her years as an MD: http://avivaromm.com/choosing-home-birth.

Midwife of the Week posts, written by Sirene-Rose Lipschutz, originate on FoMM’s Facebook page and are archived here on our website for your continued enjoyment!