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An Bhean Ghlúine

Emma Laffey

  • Co. Galway – County

This project will introduce you to some of the wonderful women who were, during the early part of the 20th century, known as a ‘handywomen’. These women were mainly uneducated but learned about birthing from the women before them and were called on for all local births.

Women were beginning to get educated in midwifery but it wasn’t until 1918, when the government of Ireland introduced the Midwifery Act, that it became compulsory to have the proper education and skills to practise as a midwife. On entering birthing mothers’ homes, many midwives faced really hard and desperate situations. The local midwife not only provided a kind and sympathetic face but also engendered a feeling of safety and reassurance to the mothers when they didn’t know what was about to happen themselves or what complications might occur. The midwife’s only support was the local General Practitioner.

These women deserve to be in the spotlight and be documented for their diligence, bravery, commitment and continued care for the women of their communities. They have been largely overlooked by historians and their wonderful work has remained unrecognised for a long time. Hence, this project aims to put at least some of it right.

In this project you will find a short film about the Ballinasloe Community Midwife Mary Kate Jennings, an e-book documenting local Midwive’s with their story, photographs & memorabilia and also some recorded oral histories on local people’s memories of their Community Midwife and home births.

An Bhean Ghlúine oral history


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