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COLLECTION Identifier: T-297: Phon-33

Audio Collection of Lamaze International, 1956-2004 (inclusive), 1980-2004 (bulk)


Collection consists primarily of recordings of the American Society for Prophylaxis in Obstetrics (ASPO)/Lamaze annual conference sessions and a few educational and instructional recordings.


  • Creation: 1956-2004
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1980-2004

Language of Materials

Materials in English and French.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Unrestricted. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the unpublished materials created by Lamaze International is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Permission to utilize sound bites or clips from published Lamaze materials, other than for research purposes, must be obtained in writing from Lamaze headquarters in Washington, DC. Copyright in other material in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

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


643 audiotapes
8 phonograph records

The Audio Collection of Lamaze International contains primarily audio recordings of sessions, workshops, board meetings, faculty meetings, and awards ceremonies that occurred at the organization's annual conference. Also included are recordings of sessions, talks, and workshops held by the Childbirth Institute, as well as a handful of instructional recordings about childbirth education in general and Lamaze techniques of breathing and relaxation, specifically. Initially, Lamaze International conference sessions primarily addressed pregnancy, labor and childbirth techniques, and postpartum care. Presentations explored clinical concerns and technical topics such as epidural administration, inducing labor, vaginal birth after Caesarean, as well as topics of more general nature, including normalizing birth procedures, empowering laboring women, breathing exercises, beginning a pre-natal exercise routine, and female sexuality before, during, and after pregnancy. Attendance at some conference sessions provided licensed childbirth educators with continuing education credits and attendees were given a code at the end of each session that enabled them to receive continuing education credit. Beginning in approximately 1980, most, if not all, sessions of the conference were taped and available for purchase. Over time, sessions began to cover a broader range of topics, including advice on how to market childbirth education classes; strategies in administering and funding childbirth education centers; infant and toddler care; nutrition for mother and baby; postpartum depression; child educator burnout; breast feeding; effective parenting; engaging teaching strategies; interpersonal dynamics; communication and writing skills; power struggles within hospital administration; as well as power imbalances among obstetrician, nurse, childbirth educator, and patient. Many sessions, especially those in the Childbirth Institute, addressed the physical, mental and emotional well-being not only of pregnant women but of the childbirth educators and working mothers. Some Lamaze International sessions featured lectures by well-known doctors, such as T. Berry Brazelton, Eugene Declerq, and Harvey Karp; midwives, including Sister Angela Murdaugh and Ina May Gaskin; and pioneering childbirth educators, such as Elisabeth Bing. However, unlike traditional conference sessions which feature a presenter and passive audience, many of the Lamaze conference sessions incorporated dynamic audience participation, experiential training, group discussions, dance, and physical touch. Tapes are arranged chronologically and divided into two series.

Series I, CONFERENCES, 1980-2004 (#T-297.1 - T-297.635), contains tape recordings of Lamaze International's annual conferences and recordings of meetings of the Childbirth Institute, a group which served as a summit for childbirth educators and occurred immediately before Lamaze annual conferences. The Childbirth Institute recordings featured many of the same speakers and topics covered at the Lamaze annual meeting and were intermingled with annual conference recordings. All tape titles are original, created by the speaker or Lamaze International. Speakers' names are provided when known; in some cases, following the tape title and date, additional description was provided by the archivist. Tapes are arranged first chronologically; within each year, tapes are ordered according to a numeric session code that Lamaze assigned. In most cases, Childbirth Institute tapes follow the Lamaze annual conference tape recordings of that year; however, occasionally, following the original labeling and numbering sequence, Childbirth Institute tapes appear within the annual conference tapes. In these few cases, Childbirth Institute is noted in the tape title.

Series II, GENERAL CHILDBIRTH EDUCATION, 1956-1985, n.d. (#Phon-33.1-Phon-33.8, T-297-636 - T-297.643), includes instructional recordings of Lamaze breathing techniques and practices, the tape recording of a father-attended Caesarean birth, and instruction (tailored to men and women) on overcoming fear in second stage labor. It is arranged chronologically with undated materials appearing at the end.


Incorporated in 1960, the American Society for Psychoprophylaxis in Obstetrics (ASPO) grew from the experiences and beliefs of two women, Marjorie Karmel and Elisabeth Bing, and their personal experiences with childbirth using little or no medical interference and focused upon childbirth as a normal life process.

A native of New York, Karmel delivered a baby in France in the 1950s, under the guidance of Dr. Ferdinand Lamaze. At the time in hospitals across America, birth had been largely medicalized and medical professionals commonly treated labor and delivery as a pathological process which required controlling. A widespread focus on the intolerable pain of labor made it standard procedure to restrain and heavily sedate women. In many cases, however, drugs prevented women from being able to properly push, confused women and exacerbated fears, and adversely affected the baby as well. Afraid and isolated from their partners, many women described childbirth as a horrifying, unnatural, emotionally painful experience. Disturbed by these attitudes toward birth, French obstetrician Ferdinand Lamaze proposed that the intense physical and emotional pain women experienced in childbirth resulted largely from social conditioning.

Lamaze advocated that pregnant women be instructed in visualization, psychosomatic practices, and controlled breathing techniques to mentally prepare them to cope with pain in labor, facilitating delivery without drugs. When Marjorie Karmel delivered her child in France following Lamaze's method, she reported the experience as transcendent; not without pain, but tolerable, memorable, and filled with joy. The book she wrote detailing her experience, Thank You, Dr. Lamaze (1959) attracted the attention of many pregnant women and childbirth educators, including Elisabeth Bing, a physical therapist. Impressed by Karmel's experience as an active participant in the birth process, Bing became a champion of the Lamaze method. She and Karmel united to teach the method to women in New York City and formed the ASPO.

Initially, the organization's by-laws stipulated a tiered system of membership: only physicians were entitled to full membership. Psychologists, nurses, midwives, and other professionals could join as associate members and other interested lay people (primarily parents) could join as supporting members. In 1965 new by-laws were written that redefined membership criteria, creating three divisions of full membership: physicians, teachers, and parents. These three divisions worked together to further the organization's mission: developing and promoting standards for childbirth and early parenting education and family-centered maternity care through education, advocacy and reform. The group taught the Lamaze method of childbirth which instructed mothers and their partners in psychological and physical methods to suppress pain and facilitate delivery without drugs.

From its inception, the ASPO held annual conferences that featured leading childbirth experts, researchers, physicians, nurses, midwives, doulas, and childbirth educators who presented papers and led workshops, most of which were dedicated to issues pertaining to pregnancy, labor and childbirth techniques, and postpartum care. In 1983, after several years of discussion that the name "American Society for Psychoprophylaxis in Obstetrics" was cumbersome, ASPO modified its name to ASPO/Lamaze. By 1993, the group changed its name again, to Lamaze International, to accommodate the chapters that had formed outside of the United States.


The collection is arranged in two series:

  1. Series I. Conferences, 1980-2004 (#T-297.1 - T-297.635)
  2. Series II. General Childbirth Education, 1956-1985, n.d. (#Phon-33.1-Phon-33.8, T-297-636 - T-297.643)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2000-M58, 2006-M225, 2014-M91

The records of Lamaze International were given to the Schlesinger Library by Elisabeth Bing and Harriet Berry between 2000 and 2006. Additional materials were given by Gwin Richter in June 2014.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Records of Lamaze International, 1849-2006 (MC 707) and Moving Image Collection of Lamaze International, 1956-2010 (MP-47; Vt-112; DVD-3).

Processing Information

Processed: May 2014

By: Marilyn Morgan

Lamaze International. Audio Collection of Lamaze International, 1956-2004 (inclusive), 1980-2004 (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 gifts from the Rosa Raisel Fund, the Class of 1958, and the Ardis B. James fund.

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.

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