Records of the Royal College of Midwives

Scope and Content

This collection comprises, council and committee minutes, agendas and reports, correspondence and papers of the College President and the General Secretary, departmental records, photographs and printed material, relating to the activities of, and prominent individuals involved in, the Royal College of Midwives (formally known as the Midwives Institute), as well as the campaign for the registration, training and education of midwives, maternity services, pregnancy, childbirth, contraception and abortion, dating from the foundation of the organisation in 1881 to the present day.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Royal College of Midwives was formally founded in 1941, receiving its Royal Charter in 1947, but its history extends back to 1881, when the Matron's Aid, or Trained Midwives' Registration Society, was set up by Zepherina Veitch, a midwife among the poor at the British Lying-In Hospital near Endell Street in London, and Louisa Hubbard, the editor of a womens journal called Work and Leisure, in a bid to 'raise the efficiency and improve the status of midwives and to petition parliament for their recognition'.

In June 1886, the name of the society was changed to the Midwives Institute, thus acknowledging that as well as campaigning to improve the statutory position of the midwifery profession, it was dedicated to promoting education and training for midwives. This was largely due to the work of Rosaline Paget, a newly qualified midwife at this time, who was responsible for organising the first series of lectures at the headquarters of the College. In addition to this she was involved in founding the library and club room as well as the journal Nursing Notes (later known as the Midwives Chronicle), which widened not only professional discussion but also membership.

By 1902 the endeavors of the Midwives Institute were realised with the passing of the first Midwives Act for England and Wales. In turn the Central Midwives Board was established as custodian of the Midwives Roll, in order to prohibit unqualified and unregistered women from practicing midwifery.

As the twentieth century progressed, the Midwives Institute continued to provide lectures and education opportunities for midwives, and during its early days an employment register was maintained, which could be consulted by the public who were looking for recommended and trained care. The Midwives Act of 1936 provided regulations regarding return to practice following a period away from midwifery and passed control of a salaried midwifery service to local authorities. The Royal College of Midwives, as it was by then known, subsequently became the main provider of the five-yearly residential statutory refresher courses for midwives, and developed teaching and courses in clinical practice.

After the Second World War, there were major changes in the administration of health care and also in the organisation and provision of maternity services, including the move from birth at home to birth in hospital and the increased use of medical intervention. This along with the introduction of the Industrial Relations Act in 1976, led to members voting to become a trade union as well as a professional organisation, which divided the College into the Royal College of Midwives Limited and the Royal College of Midwives Trust.

As a result the Royal College of Midwives has become the voice of midwifery. The main purpose of the College, which is led by midwives for midwives and those that support them, remains to enhance the confidence, professional practice and influence of midwives for the benefit of child-bearing women and their families, nationally and internationally.


The original order of the material is retained, although where this is not possible the arrangement of files has been based on the functions and activities of the organisation as well as chronology, subject and the needs of users.

Access Information

Permission is required for external access to records less than twenty years old. Also restrictions apply if material includes personal information of living individuals. All other records are open to research by appointment, Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm. For further information about accessing the collection and visiting the reading room, please contact:

Acquisition Information

There is no record of the source or date of acquisition before this material was deposited under the terms of a collection care agreement at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in May 2011.


Catalogued by Clare Sexton, Project Archivist in accordance with ISAD(G).

Other Finding Aids

Further details of the contents of this collection are available on request.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

The early minute books within this collection have fragile bindings and should be handled with care. In addition to this some of the material has been poorly conserved.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright belongs to the Royal College of Midwives. To reproduce this material, please apply via the College Archivist:

Appraisal Information

Duplicate and routine administrative material is removed where applicable by the College Archivist.

Custodial History

This collection was previously held by the Royal College of Midwives.


The acquisition of additional material is expected.

Related Material

Also see the deposited papers of the Royal College of Midwives (Archives reference number: RCMS), which includes registers of cases, case books, notebooks, lecture notes, diaries, photographs and printed material, relating the experiences of midwives as well as how childbirth has changed throughout the twentieth century.


Cowell and Wainwright, Behind the Blue Door: The History of the Royal College of Midwives, 1881-1981 (1981)