Skip to main content

Gaskin, Ina May 1940-

GASKIN, Ina May 1940-

PERSONAL: Born March 8, 1940, in Marshalltown, IA; daughter of Talford L. (a farmer and salesman) and Ruth (a teacher; maiden name, Stinson) Middleton; married Michael J. Kelley, December 27, 1959 (divorced); married Stephen F. Gaskin (founder of the Farm alternative community, writer, and lecturer), 1976; children: (first marriage) Sydney J. (deceased), one son (deceased); (second marriage) Eva Marie, Samuel, Paul Benjamin. Education: University of Iowa, B.A. (summa cum laude), 1962; Northern Illinois University, M.A., 1966. Hobbies and other interests: Languages (including Spanish, German, Malay, Welsh, and some Cantonese, Mandarin, Gaelic, and French).

ADDRESSES: Office—Midwives Alliance of North America, 4805 Lawrenceville Hwy., Ste. 115-279, Lilburn, GA 30047.

CAREER: Writer and midwife. U.S. Peace Corps, Washington, DC, English teacher in secondary school in Kuala Trengganu, Malaysia, 1963–65; Office of Economic Opportunity, San Francisco, CA, teacher of English as a second language, 1967–69; accompanied Monday Night Class on lecture tour/caravan through United States, 1970–71; The Farm (alternative community), Summertown, TN, worked variously as midwife, teacher of midwifery, marriage and family counselor, clinic administrator, high school teacher, television producer, fundraiser, town planner, councilwoman, and editor-publisher of Birth Gazette (formerly Practicing Midwife), 1971–; The Farm Midwifery Center, founder, 1971, then director; public speaker.

MEMBER: Midwives' Alliance of North America (vice-president, 1982–85; president, 1996–2002), American Public Health Association, Tennessee Midwives' Association, Illinois Association for Maternal and Child Health, People's Medical Society, St. John Ambulance Brigade (New Zealand; honorary member).

WRITINGS:

NONFICTION

Spiritual Midwifery, Book Publishing, 1976, 4th edition, 2002.

Babies, Breastfeeding, and Bonding, Bergin-Garvey (New York, NY), 1987.

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth: Discover the Proven Wisdom That Has Guided Thousands of Women Through Childbirth with More Confidence, Less Pain, and Little or No Medical Intervention—Whether in a Hospital, Birthing Center, or the Comfort of Home, Bantam (New York, NY) 2003.

Contributor to books, including, Hey Beatnik!: This Is the Farm Book, 1974; Compulsory Hospitalization or Freedom of Choice in Childbirth, edited by David Stewart and Lee Stewart, NAPSAC (InterNational Association of Parents & Professionals for Safe Alternatives in Childbirth; Marble Hill, MO), 1978; Birth Control and Controlling Birth: Women-Centered Perspectives, edited by Helen B. Holmes, Humana (Totowa, NJ), 1980; The Five Standards for Safe Childbearing, NAPSAC (InterNational Association of Parents & Professionals for Safe Alternatives in Childbirth; Marble Hill, MO), 1981; Surviving: The Best Game on Earth, by Norrie Huddle, Schocken, 1984; Birth Matters: Issues and Alternatives in Childbirth, edited by Ros Claxton, 1986; and The Midwife Challenge, edited by Sheila Kitzinger.

ADAPTATIONS: Spiritual Midwifery was adapted for video, Birth Gazette Video, c. 1998.

SIDELIGHTS: Ina May Gaskin is an internationally known and extremely influential midwife. She is considered a leading figure in the home-birth movement and modern midwifery in the United States. Gaskin also developed the "Gaskin Maneuver," a way to address the condition of shoulder dystocia in childbirth. She has written several significant books on her area of expertise. Her first book was Spiritual Midwifery, which has become an important reference book on how to assist in the birthing process. It also includes first-hand accounts of births and information on prenatal care. Gaskin holds the position that births do not always need to take place in hospitals or even with the care of doctors, and are sacred rituals that empower women. The book has been translated into four languages and undergone multiple editions. The fourth edition adds information on postpartum depression and the death of mothers in childbirth.

About twenty years after the first edition of Spiritual Midwifery, Gaskin published Ina May's Guide to Childbirth: Discover the Proven Wisdom That Has Guided Thousands of Women Through Childbirth with More Confidence, Less Pain, and Little or No Medical Intervention—Whether in a Hospital, Birthing Center, or the Comfort of Home. This book is not just for midwives and their potential clients, but also for women considering a medical birth. In it, Gaskin discusses the history of childbirth, referencing both ancient civilizations and contemporary, non-Western takes on the process. She also includes advice for expectant mothers on how to prepare for childbirth, illustrating her points with personal stories. Mary Frances Wilkens in Booklist called Ina May's Guide to Childbirth "an extremely comprehensive and up-to-date guide on the topic."

Gaskin told CA: "I consider the participation of women vital to the political process. The growth of the profession of midwifery is essential to the advancement of self-determination in women.

"Spiritual Midwifery had its beginnings with the first book that was published on the Farm: Hey Beatnik!: This Is the Farm Book, written after my midwife partners and I had attended about 140 births. Each of the operations or divisions of the Farm contributed a few pages of information for Hey Beatnik! Several new mothers wrote about their birthing experiences on the Farm. Their stories were so vivid that I decided to include them, along with a bit of explanatory material which I wrote. The response to Hey Beatnik!, which soon sold out its 80,000 copies, was startling and overwhelming to me. Two letters stand out in my memory—one from someone who used my instructions to deliver a baby in a cave in Crete, and another from someone who used them to deliver a baby in a log cabin in Alaska. Meanwhile, more birth stories poured in from the mothers who continued to give birth on the Farm, and I had enough to publish a good-sized book. Knowing that people were actually using my writings to deliver their own babies, I approached the writing of my two-thirds of Spiritual Midwifery with a heightened sense of responsibility.

"I chose the term 'spiritual' to describe our kind of midwifery after I discovered that the process of labor is very much affected by the attitudes of the woman in labor, as well as those of her mate and her attendants. I wanted to draw people's attention to the fact that laboring women are not machines, and that the process of labor and birth is much more subtle and fancy than most people, especially medical professionals, seemed to realize. I thought other people would find it as striking as I did that 'amateurs' could manage to devise a way of supporting birthing women so that a very low rate of surgical intervention was necessary.

"Our woman-centered system of childbirth care continues to the present day. I strongly believe that when women are nurtured and fussed over and loved and respected through all stages of the reproductive process that their bodies not only function better, with considerably less pain than American women normally expect in childbirth, but that they come away from birth much stronger and braver people, capable of doing great, healing acts. When you have a large network of such women, it becomes possible to think that we actually can save our environment, raise a generation of people who will be able to live lightly on the planet and pass on such ways to future generations."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, February 15, 2003, Mary Frances Wilkens, review of Ina May's Guide to Childbirth: Discover the Proven Wisdom That Has Guided Thousands of Women Through Childbirth with More Confidence, Less Pain, and Little or No Medical Intervention—Whether in a Hospital, Birthing Center, or the Comfort of Home, p. 1026.

Books & Culture, November-December, 2003, Agnes Howard, "Where Babies Come From," review of Spiritual Midwifery, p. 30.

Midwifery Today, winter, 2002, Cher Mikkola, review of Spiritual Midwifery, p. 66.

ONLINE

Salon.com, http://www.salon.com/ (March 31, 2003), Kate Allison Granju, "Brilliant Careers: The Midwife of Modern Midwifery."

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Gaskin, Ina May 1940-." Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Gaskin, Ina May 1940-." Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/educational-magazines/gaskin-ina-may-1940

"Gaskin, Ina May 1940-." Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series. . Retrieved September 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/educational-magazines/gaskin-ina-may-1940

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.