Midwives In Literature

A list of stories about midwives, collected by a midwife and literary historian.

Note: Most books on this site have met the standard for classical or exceptional literature and are recommended for kids and/or young adults. This page is different. This is a list of literature books about midwives - many are new, not all are high quality, and only a few are classics. However, it is one of the few places where midwife literature is collected and reviewed. Visitors are encouraged to select books based on their own discretion.


Midwife Stories for Children

Mary On Horseback

By Rosemary Wells
Setting: Appalachia WWI
Age: 4th to 6th Grade

The true story of the Mary Breckenridge who traveled by horseback to take care of families that cars and modern medicine could not reach. As other nurses joined her mission, she trained them as midwives and founded the Frontier School of Midwifery. (still in operation)


The Midwife's Apprentice

By Karen Cushman
Setting Medieval England
Age: 4th to 6th Grade

The story of a homeless orphan who becomes an apprentice to a harsh midwife in Medieval England.

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Midwife Stories for Adults

The King's Midwife : A History and Mystery of Madame du Coudray

by Nina Rattner Gelbart
Setting: France, 1700s
Non-fiction

A detailed account of Madam du Courdray and her mission to teach safe midwifery to peasants throughout France. Commissioned by the king, she saw it as a patriotic duty to save babies from the ignorant and dangerous practices of her day. She embarked on a journey that took over twenty years and trained more than ten thousand midwives while energeticallly overcoming the forces against women in healthcare, eventually becoming one of the casualties of the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution. A readable biography by a historian that retraced her steps searching the official records and letters written two and a half centuries ago.

My only complaint is a desire to learn more of the methods of delivery taught by du Courdray (she wrote several textbooks) as well as her teaching methods (the enthusiasm of her students and hosts for her engaging instruction allowed her to overcome almost overwhelming opposition.) This account focuses primarily on the personal and political journey uncovered in the correspondance - a trail-blazing story in itself.

The Red Tent

By Anita Diamont
Setting: Canaan, 1300 B.C.

A novel from the era of the Biblical patriarchs, The Red Tent tells the story of Diana, the daughter of Jacob, who became a midwife in Palestine and was taken to Egypt at the same time her brother Joseph ruled with Pharoah. It is a very different tale from the Biblical account, that stresses the community of women around their menstrual cycle as they gathered in the red tent. Some content may be offensive and inappropriate for young people.

The Midwife

By Gay Courter
Setting: Turn of the 20th Century
Russian and New York
Adult Fiction

Hannah is a Jewish midwife who flees Russia and immigrates to the America. Befriended by a Russian doctor, she sets up her midwife practice in the New York City. But her license is lost as she is falsely accused of the actions of an unscrupulous untrained midwife. And her affairs with three different men cloud her future. Some objectionable content makes this inappropriate for young people.

Hannah: A Midwife's Tale

By Robin Salter
Setting: Newfoundland Coast, 1948
Adult Fiction

Hannah is married to a fisherman on the harsh eastern coast and has carried on in her mother's footsteps as the local midwife. Called to provide different services to the coastal population, she finds herself attracted to the doctor of the closest hospital. More a story of romance than midwifery (she only delivers two babies in the timeframe of the narrative) it provides a close look at the life of the outport people prior to joining Canada.

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Midwives as Detectives

Why and how could a midwife be a detective? They knew how to keep the secrets of the women in their communities. They slept with their ears alert for a knock on the door and walked the back alleys in the dark of night.

If anyone knew what was happening, it would be them.

The Midwife's Tale: A Mystery

By Sam Thomas
Setting: England 1644

Twice widowed, Bridget is a midwife of genteel birth. When her close friend is accused of murder, Bridget's pronouncement of pregnancy is all that delays her execution. With England on the verge of war, the town surrounded by hostile forces, and murder and violence in the city, Bridget needs to sift through the political intrigue to save her friend. But it is more than just her friend who needs her help.

Murder on Astor Place

By Victoria Thompson
Setting: Manhatten, 1900
First book in the Gaslight Mysteries Series

Sarah has left her aristocratic family to serve as a midwife among the poor of New York City. When a girl is murdered, Sarah is determined to find what happened, even though the entire police department stands in her way. The first book in a series of over 20 stories of a midwife and detective in turn-of-the-century New York.

Delivering the Truth

By Edith Maxwell
Setting: Amesbury, Massachusetts, 1880
First book in the Quaker Midwife Mystery Series

Rose Carroll is a late 19th century midwife who serves women in and outside of her Quaker community. Like all the townspeople, Rose's suspicions are aroused by arson and murder in their town. But when it is found that the murder weapon came from Rose's delivery bag, attention is turned to her. The story is a little slow in getting started, but hastens to a quick pace halfway through as new crimes and suspects are added. Currently there are five books in the series which follow Rose and her practice.

Love Detective Stories? We have an entire page of awesome, classical detective stories to satisfy the sleuth in all of us.

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