Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: MC 656: T-377: Vt-181

Papers of Nancy Wainer, 1973-2008 (inclusive), 1976-1998 (bulk)


Writings and correspondence of Nancy Wainer, midwife and health care activist, and articles re: childbirth methods.


  • Creation: 1973-2008
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1976-1998

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Researchers must sign a special form for access to #1.8-1.12, 2.1-2.4, 2.7, 3.7, 3.9, 4.1, 4.16, 5.3, and 5.19. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Nancy Wainer is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


2.08 linear feet ((5 file boxes) plus 2 audiotapes, 1 videotape, electronic records)

This collection documents Wainer's career as a midwife and health care educator and activist. There is very little material on her personal life. The collection includes correspondence, including birth announcements and thank you notes from women whose babies Wainer delivered; brochures and flyers for Wainer's workshops; printed literature about cesarean prevention and vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC); worksheets and other material from Wainer's internship at Casa de Nacitmiento in El Paso, Texas; clippings; audiotapes; a videotape; and photographs. Wainer was involved with several online childbirth forums, including the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN), Unassisted Childbirth, the Unassisted Childbirth email list and the Unassisted Birth After Cesarean List. Printouts of exchanges on these sites have been removed from the collection for reasons of privacy; as have a large number of childbirth photographs. The collection is arranged in the following groupings: biographical; correspondence; internship and apprenticeship; photographs; resource files; workshops and conferences; and writings and related. The arrangement within each group is alphabetical. Wainer's web site is being captured periodically as part of Harvard University Library's Web Archive Collection (WAX).


Midwife and childbirth writer and speaker Nancy Wainer was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1947, the daughter of Merton and Ethel (Cohen) Wainer. She graduated from Boston University in 1969. She and her husband Paul Cohen, a dentist, married in 1969 and settled in Needham, Massachusetts, and had three children, Eric (b.1972), Elissa (b.1974), and Andrea (b.1979), before divorcing. From 1972 until 1982, she was a leader in La Leche League, a nonprofit organization founded in 1956 to promote breastfeeding. In 1973, Wainer and Jini Duffy Fairley founded the nonprofit organization C/Sec Inc. (Cesareans/Support Education and Concern), which provided information on cesarean childbirth, cesarean prevention, and vaginal birth after cesarean or VBAC, a phrase coined by Wainer. Wainer was instrumental in changing hospital policies regarding cesarean section and VBAC and spoke out forcefully against a growing reliance in the United States on technology and surgery during birth. She is the author (as Nancy Wainer Cohen) of Silent Knife: Cesarean Prevention and Vaginal Birth after Cesarean (1983) and Open Season: A Survival Guide for Natural Childbirth and VBAC in the 90s (1991); she has also written several articles on childbirth. As of 2011, she is a practicing certified professional midwife specializing in homebirths, conducting childbirth seminars throughout the United States and in Canada, and serving as a consultant to birthing organizations around the world.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 2008-M153

The papers of Nancy Wainer were given to the Schlesinger Library by Nancy Wainer in September 2008.

Related Material:

For related material, see the records of C/Sec, Inc., 2005-M115.


Donor: Nancy Wainer

Accession number: 2008-M153

Processed by: Susan Earle

The following items have been removed from the collection and transferred to the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine:

  1. Partners in Perinatal Health 18th Annual Conference, May 15, 2007, Marlborough, Massachusetts.
  2. Safely Reducing Cesarean Rates..., June 8-9, 1998, Boston, Massachusetts.

The following items have been removed from the collection and transferred to the records of C/Sec, Inc.:

  1. C/Sec Newsletter, 1975-1976
  2. Having a Section Is Having a Baby. Audiotapes, slides, and teacher's guide produced by C/Sec, Inc.
  3. Audiotapes of talks given at C/Sec, Inc. conference, October 17, 1981

The following items have been removed from the collection and transferred to the Schlesinger Library book collection:

  1. Cane, Aleta Feinsod. Frankly Speaking: A Pamphlet for Cesarean Parents. MA: C/Sec, Inc., 1976
  2. Cohen, Nancy, et al. Manual for Setting Up Prepared Childbirth Classes for Cesarean Parents, MA: C/Sec, Inc., 1976
  3. Shearer, Beth and Aleta Feinsod Cane. Frankly Speaking: A Pamphlet for Cesarean Parents, 2nd edition. MA: C/Sec, Inc., 1978
  4. Shearer, Beth. Manual for Setting Up Prepared Childbirth Classes for Cesarean Parents: Prepared Cesarean Birth and Vaginal Birth after Cesarean, 2nd edition. MA: C/Sec, Inc., 1983
  5. Frankly Speaking: A Book for Cesarean Parents, 3rd edition. Beth Shearer and Aleta Feinsod Cane, eds. MA: C/Sec, Inc., 1984
  6. Frankly Speaking: A Book for Cesarean Parents, 4th edition. Beth Shearer and Aleta Feinsod Cane, eds. MA: C/Sec, Inc., 1989

The following items have been removed from the collection and transferred to the Schlesinger Library audiovisual collection.

  1. Birth Trauma: A Modern Epidemic: The Cause of the First Subluxation. VHS videotape.
  2. Haire, Doris. O.B. Practices in the U.S. "What You Don't Know Can Hurt You." La Leche International, 1981. Audiotape.
  3. Once a Cesarian: Vaginal Birth after Cesarean. Edited Version for Labor Support, 1986. 3/4 inch u-matic videotape.
  4. Stewart, David. Childbirth Options: An Overview. La Leche League International, 1981. Audiotape.

Processing Information

Processed: March 2011

By: Susan Earle

Wainer, Nancy, 1947- . Papers of Nancy Wainer, 1973-2008 (inclusive), 1976-1998 (bulk): A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by a gift from the Radcliffe College Class of 1957.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

3 James St.
Cambridge MA 02138 USA