Ina May Gaskin, the Godmother of Modern Midwifery, and her husband, Stephen Gaskin, founder of Plenty International, talked to Lisa Reagan in Washington, DC, in July 2011 about birth, midwives, The Farm, and being “Technicolor Amish”. The interview was filmed after the broadcast interview with Ina May to the 2.2 million listeners of The Diane Rehm Show. (Lisa Reagan, Kindred’s executive editor, is pictured with Stephen and Ina May at WAMU radio station on the left of this page.)
This intimate and memorable discussion between Ina May and Stephen, who have been together for more than 30 years, includes Stephen sharing his advice to men to “act like knights” and “pledge your sword to a lady. Protect those who need protecting.” Ina May and Stephen remember the trucks on The Farm, why midwives are the best drivers and conversations with international physicians who have advocated for natural birth as a human right.
In this video, photographers like Robert Altman and David Frohman, chroniclers of the 1960s movement and The Farm history, show “professor” Stephen Gaskin talking to a group of 1500 young people about what was going on in their radically changing world. From The Farm’s website:
In 1966, a young assistant professor at San Francisco State College began scheduling classes to talk about what was happening outside his window. The classes grew too large for the college halls, so the class moved to a church, a theater, and then, in 1969, to the Family Dog, Chet Helms’ rock hall on the coast. Monday Night Class became a weekly pilgrimage of throngs of hippies from up and down the coast, from high schools and university campuses, from army bases and police academies, from mountain communes and Haight Street crash pads. Thousands of people, in various states of consciousness, came with tamborines and diaphanous gowns, love beads and bangles, Dr. Strange cloaks and top hats with feathers. The open-ended discussions ventured into Hermeneutic geometry, Masonic-Rosicrucian mysticism, Ekenkar and the Rolling Stones, but opened with a long, silent meditation and closed with a sense of purpose. At the center of this psychedelic crucible, the professor in the welder’s hood, was 31-year-old Stephen Gaskin, known simply to most hippies as “Stephen.”
Stephen would say, “Lets talk about how we’re gonna be.” Not “how we’re gonna stop the war” or “how we’re gonna make it fair,” but “how we’re gonna be.”
In 1970, a group of “hippies” following Stephen and his teachings set out to find a place to live according to their beliefs in the famous Caravan (pictured in the video) of 60 buses finally founding The Farm in Summertown, Tennessee. It was her life at The Farm that inspired Ina May Gaskin to become a midwife and write her seminal work, Spiritual Midwifery.
Ina May went onto become a founder of the Midwives’ Alliance of North America and the Godmother of Modern Midwifery. A powerful advocate for a woman’s right to give birth without excessive and unnecessary medical intervention, her clinical midwifery skills have been developed entirely through independent study and apprenticeship with other midwives around the world. Ina May and fellow Farm midwives were instrumental in the development of the rigorous Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) certification process.
Currently, Ina May travels internationally on speaking engagements and networking with other midwives and midwife alliances. She was presented the Right Livelihood Award in Sweden in December 2011. Stephen was the first recipient of the award in 1980. The award is considered to be the “alternative Nobel prize”.
Read an interview with Ina May by Lisa Reagan in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine’s Fall 2011 issue here.