The first general meeting of the Council of the Royal College of Midwives (formally known as the Midwives Institute) took place in 1890. Before this, meetings had been conducted on a much more informal basis, and were usually held in the drawing room of one or another of the founding members.
This change was primarily brought about by the incorporation of the College under the Company's Act in 1889. At the same time the purposes of the organisation were more clearly defined as: 1) to raise the efficiency and improve the status of midwives by petitioning parliament for their recognition, 2) to establish a register of members, 3) to provide a library and a club room for members and 4) to arrange courses of lectures and afford opportunities for discussion on issues concerning the midwifery profession.
The Council became a representative body that met quarterly in January, April, July and October, while special meetings (sometimes referred to as the advisory board) were called when required in order to formulate policy and to make executive decisions regarding the work of the College. In addition to this it was involved in arranging for the representation of midwives on all appropriate external committees.
From 1902, the Council was also responsible for appointing one medical practitioner and two midwives as representatives on the Central Midwives Board, the statutory authority constituted by the first Midwives Act, as well as being the governing body of all midwives in England and Wales.
The Royal College of Midwives now has an elected Board of practising midwives, which is responsible for settings the strategic direction of the organisation and ensuring it is viable, properly managed and governed. It also acts to support the RCM senior management in their running of the headquarters of the College.