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The Committee on Organization

Since the identity of nurse-midwives could not be maintained in the existing situation, the nurse-midwives present at an ANA convention in the spring of 1954 agreed to establish The Committee on Organization. Sister M. Theopane Shoemaker, the director of the Catholic Maternity Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, was chair of the committee.

The Committee on Organization, though claiming its progress was slow and tedious, had within two months identified reasons for organizing; discussed ways in which organization could be accomplished; written a definition of a nurse-midwife; identified the functions of a new organization if one was to be established; set educational standards for nurse-midwifery schools including a statement of purpose and basic admission requirements; designed and mailed a questionnaire to locate nurse-midwives and ascertain their desire to organize; written and mailed two of the eventual six Organization Bulletins of the Committee on Organization; and organized a meeting of nurse-midwives for December 1954.

Forty-six nurse-midwives attended the meeting in December, reviewed the work done to that point and the results of the questionnaire (to which 147 nurse-midwives had replied), and approved the definition of a nurse-midwife and a statement of purposes of a nurse-midwifery organization. The major issue, however, was how organization could be accomplished. Four possible options had been identified:

  1. Organization within the American Nurses' Association (ANA) as a conference group
  2. Organization within the National League for Nursing (NLN) as a council
  3. Reorganization of the American Association of Nurse-Midwives (AANM) into a national organization
  4. Formation of an entirely new organization of nurse-midwives to be known as the American College of Nurse-Midwifery

The American Association of Nurse-Midwives had been started in 1929 as the Kentucky State Association of Midwives, incorporated by nurse-midwives working with the Frontier Nursing Service. Mary Breckinridge, the director of the Frontier Nursing Service, was president of AANM during her lifetime. Its function and its organization were such that it could not serve the purposes of this national movement of nurse-midwives. AANM, therefore, was eliminated as a possible option based on its members' analysis and statement of preference not to be considered.

The remaining options were either to organize within one of the national nursing organizations or to create a new organization. The decision was deferred until letters requesting a conference group and a council, respectively, were submitted to, and replies were received from, ANA and NLN. The letters were approved during the meeting.

The NLN expressed interest and concern but pointed out that its bylaws for organization of a council would not meet the needs of the nurse-midwives. The reply from the ANA was not encouraging. The ANA was interested in a plan to establish an interdisciplinary committee of the ANA and the NLN, with additional representatives from the public, to study the improvement of the care of mothers and children. The nurse-midwives could be a part of this committee.

This information was published in the fourth Organization Bulletin, along with the plans for the next meeting of The Committee on Organization and a request for comments regarding what was emerging as the obvious direction for organization. At its meeting in May 1955, The Committee on Organization voted unanimously to proceed with the formation of the American College of Nurse-Midwifery. Those present based their action on the fact that all the other options had essentially been ruled out, the fact that 133 of the 147 nurse-midwives answering the questionnaire had responded positively to the idea of belonging to a new organization of nurse-midwives, the obvious conclusion that formation of a separate organization seemed to be the only way that nurse-midwives could work together and accomplish the goals that had been delineated in the statement of purposes, and the fact that only one response had been received to the request for comments regarding this direction. The Committee on Organization had done such a splendid job of keeping all the nurse-midwives informed and involved that there was nothing further to be said.

The Committee on Organization began working to incorporate and establish the organization. The result was the incorporation of the American College of Nurse-Midwifery, November 7, 1955, in the state of New Mexico. New Mexico was chosen because it was on of the few states in which nurse-midwives were practicing and incorporation there involved the least amount of red tape, time, and expense.


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