July 1985, MANA News supplement
When MANA was founded in 1982, there were many organizations in North America which midwives had been instrumental in organizing or that somehow provided a means of communication and support among midwives. Among them were the National Midwives' Association, the Association for Childbirth at Home, Inc., Informed Homebirth, and NAPSAC.
However, none of these organizations had a membership base broad enough to draw all midwives together in one organization that provided strength of numbers, an internal support system, or the credibility and political clout necessary to promote midwifery as an accepted part of the maternal-child health care system in North America.
The American College of Nurse-Midwives was the only professional organization of midwives that promoted inter-professional relations with doctors, nurses, and other health care provider; that provided guidelines for midwifery education and quality midwifery practice; and that had developed a reliable communication network keeping midwives around the country informed of each others' efforts. But ACNM membership was limited to midwives who were nurses who had graduated from ACNM accredited midwifery training programs and were certified by national exam.
The ACNM was beginning to hear from midwives who did not meet these requirements but were interested in being part of a professional organization. Many nurse-midwives were eager to open communication with midwives outside of the ACNM but were thwarted by the lack of an equivalent organization with which to establish a formal liaison.
Many midwives, both nurse-midwives and others, recognized the vacuum that needed to be filled. Certain ones had the vision, leadership and organizational skills necessary to institute the formation of such an organization. One such midwife was Sister Angela Murdaugh, President of the ACNM from 1981 to 1983.
In October 1981, Sister Angela called a meeting in Washington, D.C., which she hoped would plant the seed for the formation of this new organization. She invited 7 midwives from around the country, a mix of nurse-midwives and other midwives educated in a variety of ways. This initial meeting was called "Dialogue Day" and consisted of a round-table discussion of the issues confronting all midwives in the country, with special emphasis on the communication concerns between nurse-midwives and other American midwives. The upshot of this first meeting was a decision to form a "Guild" that would include all midwives with the following purposes in mind:
- To expand communication among midwives.
- To set educational guidelines for the training of midwives.
- To set guidelines for basic competency and safety for practicing midwives.
- To form an identifiable professional organization for all midwives in this country.
Present at this first meeting were several midwives who were on the first MANA Governing Board: Teddy Charvet, Ina May Gaskin, Susan Leibel, and Fran Ventre. An open meeting was planned for Lexington, Kentucky, in April 1982, before the ACNM Convention to follow-up on these discussions.
Despite communication problems between October and April, nearly 100 women from around the country attended the next meeting. Everyone was encouraged to speak to the idea of a national professional organization for midwives. Input came from many different states and many different types of midwives and their supporters, all supporting the idea of an organization.
The upshot of the meeting was that the time was right to start the work of putting together such an organization, and throughout the next several days, a core group formed and the work began. The name of Midwives' Alliance of North America was chosen and the decision to include Canada was made. The rough draft of the Articles of Incorporation was drawn up, a communication vehicle (Practicing Midwife) established, officers chosen, and a plan to have a national conference in October 1982 was hatched.
From April to October 1982, communication channels were further developed and more work was accomplished, but the organization was not prepared to put together a national conference. Instead, in October, a smaller "work meeting" was called and any midwife with the interest, energy, and ability to get herself to Boulder, Colorado, was invited. Twenty-three women from all over the U.S. and one Canadian midwife attended. This broad-based, organizationally skilled group worked well together and the structural backbone on MANA was sketched out. Committees were established and various projects started. This crucial meeting facilitated by the generous efforts of Laine Gerritson and Carole Shane of the Colorado Midwives' Association, gave MANA the big push it needed to really get off the ground and working.
From October 1982 to April 1983, more background work was done, although communication was still less than ideal. The Governing Board and officers that were appointed in Boulder, developed networks for communication and worked on their appointed tasks, but the MANA membership at large was still not well-informed about MANA's progress. At the May 1983 board meeting in Los Angeles, the decision was made to publish the newsletter, MANA News, thereby hoping to accomplish the first and most important of our original goals - expand communication among North American midwives. Also, at the L.A. meeting, work on the first National MANA conference was consolidated, questions of finances and membership were clarified and important liaisons with other groups at the ACNM convention were made.
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