Creating a More Diverse Midwifery Workforce in the United States: A Historical Reflection

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As nurse-midwifery practice expanded beyond areas surrounding early nurse-midwifery education programs, leaders in the profession wanted to establish a strong diverse, inclusive professional organization, a necessary step in creating a diverse workforce (defined here as open to nurse-midwives of all colors, ethnicities, and national origins) that would maintain standards, provide continuing education, and facilitate communication among nurse-midwives. This research presents historical context and organizational factors supporting and limiting development of a workforce reflective of communities served by nurse-midwives.


Searches in the National Library of Medicine Historical Collection, American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) Collections, and the Rockefeller Archives Center, as well as recorded interview data, provided primary sources for analysis. Secondary sources include research and opinions in scholarly publications including journals and books released from 1930 to the present.


Nurse-midwifery leaders developed relationships with well-respected philanthropists, as well as maternal and child health administrators in state departments of health and the US Children's Bureau, to implement initiatives to recruit and retain midwives of color. Continued interest in the goal of inclusion, work of midwives of color, and commitment to creating a diverse workforce led to the creation of the standing ACNM Midwives of Color Committee in 1990 and the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, which released its report, “Shifting the Frame: A Report on Diversity and Inclusion in the American College of Nurse-Midwives,”1 in June 2015.


Over the past 60 years, ACNM leadership and midwives of color have continued to explore new and effective means to create a workforce that reflects the communities in which nurse-midwives practice.

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