Midwives’ Alliance of North America Historical N

Historical Note

The Midwives’ Alliance of North America (MANA) was founded in April 1982, to build cooperation among midwives and to promote midwifery as a means of improving health care for women and their families. When MANA was founded there were many organizations that midwives had been instrumental in organizing and that provided a means of communication and support. However none had a membership base broad enough, an internal support system, or the political credibility to promote midwifery as an accepted part of the maternal-child health care system in North America. In October 1981, Sister Angela Murdaugh, of the American College of Midwives, invited seven midwives from around the country to Washington D.C. to discuss issues confronting all midwives, with special emphasis on the communication concerns between nurse-midwives and other American midwives. A decision was made to form a “Guild” that would include all midwives with four purposes in mind: to expand communication among midwives; to set educational and training guidelines; to set guidelines for basic competency and safety for practicing midwives; and to form an identifiable professional organization for all midwives in the U.S. Throughout its history MANA has advocated for the belief that birthing mothers should be able to choose their places and caregivers at birth and that midwifery should be decriminalized.

In April 1982, nearly 100 women from around the country met in Lexington, Kentucky. At this meeting the name Midwives Alliance of North America was chosen and it was decided that Canadian midwives would be included in the organization. Officers were chosen and a newsletter Practicing Midwife (changed to MANA News in 1983) was established. In October 1982 a working meeting of 23 women worked out a structure for MANA by forming committees and starting projects.

Much of MANA’s organizational energy has been directed toward making national midwifery certification acceptable and workable within the medical community and thereby accessible to women. By 1986, it had become clear that midwives needed to create an internationally accepted direct-entry midwifery credential if they were to preserve the unique forms of practice which midwives had developed over the last thirty years and at the same time work within the larger health-care community. To this end MANA launched the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM). NARM became a separately incorporated entity in 1992 and since has developed a competency-based certification process.
Out of the formal support network generated by MANA, the Midwifery Education Accreditation Council (MEAC) was established in 1991. In conjunction with NARM, it accredits a wide variety of direct-entry midwifery educational programs, including apprenticeships, thus formally validating and preserving ancient as well as modern routes to practice.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s MANA participated in the Carnegie Foundation funded Interorganizational Work Group on Midwifery Education (IWG), comprised of representatives from MANA, the American Council of Nurse Midwives, and consumer advocates. The outcome of IWG was educational competency standards for midwives which the board of NARM agreed to take on in 1993.

— Midwives’ Alliance of North America Records, 1973-1999
    Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College Northampton, MA
    Collection number MS 375

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