Anonymous, Trainee Midwife

The Mothers' Hospital
Interviewed by Natasha Lewer

Born in 1942 in Leeds, the interviewee is a member of the Salvation Army, who came from Yorkshire to London in 1963 in order to train as a midwife at the Mothers’ Hospital. At first she felt a sense of culture shock, but she grew to appreciate the area, and the people she met, both inside the hospital and in the surrounding community while doing district midwifery. She relished the chance to meet people from so many different cultures, and took part enthusiastically in Salvation Army activities. At one of their meetings she met her future husband. After qualifying as a midwife in 1964, they moved together to Norfolk, where she went on to have a long career in midwifery. She now lives in Norwich.

Here she looks back on her year as a trainee midwife; she reflects on midwifery practice and how it has changed over time; and she recalls some very happy memories of the year she spent in Hackney. 

You can listen to extracts of this midwife's interview below.

Premature babies

The Mothers' Hospital had a dedicated premature baby unit - known as Block Six - though it was fairly basic by today's standards. The interviewee describes how premature babies in the unit were cared for, bathed and fed, and how these practises differ from modern methods.

Religious services in the wards

Despite caring for mothers of every religious persuasion, the Mothers' had a strongly Christian ethos. The interviewee describes the Sunday services that took place in the wards.

Witnessing a birth

Trainee midwives each had to witness 10 births, and then assist at 10 births, before they could deliver any babies themselves. The interviewee describes what it was like to witness her first birth, and the surprising reaction she had to it.

Her first delivery

The interviewee remembers the first baby she delivered herself; she recalls the emotion of the occasion and the prayers that were offered afterwards.

On the district

After taking their first exams for the Central Midwives Board, the trainee midwives went out to gain experience "on the district". Working in the community, says the interviewee, were "the happiest days of all". Here she describes the first home birth she attended, at the home of a West Indian family in Dalston.


Trainee midwives had to adhere to strict uniform rules. The interviewee describes what they wore, and remembers a dressing-down from the hospital matron.

Salvation Army events

The Salvation Army was very active in Hackney. As well as the centenary celebrations, there was the Armistice Day parade at the Cenotaph, and the Lord Mayor's Show, when the interviewee travelled on a float through the City of London tucked up in a hospital bed,

Hospital rules

There were hospital regulations governing everything from morning prayers to lights out. Here the interviewee looks back at the matron's rule book.

This page was added by Lisa Rigg on 28/09/2009.

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