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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 515: Vt-137: T-329: Phon-32

Records of the Boston Association for Childbirth Education, 1934-1993 (inclusive), 1953-1993 (bulk)


Correspondence, minutes, questionnaires, photographs, etc., of the Boston Association for Childbirth Association, one of the oldest natural childbirth organizations in the United States.


  • 1934-1993
  • Majority of material found within 1953-1993

Language of Materials

Materials in English.


Access. All researchers must sign a special permission form. Folders #3.6, 3.8, 4.9 are closed until January 1, 2050. Class questionnaires, birth reports, registration forms, and student correspondence have been redacted and the originals are closed until January 1, 2050. Individual items (#3.6, 3.8, 4.9), particularly those containing personal information, are closed as noted to protect personal privacy.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the records of the Boston Association for Childbirth Education 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.


11.7 linear feet ((20 file boxes, 1 folio box, 1 oversize box, 1 card file box) plus 1 folio+ folder, 3 oversize folders, 1 photograph folder, 68 slides, 2 videotapes, 2 phonograph records, and electronic records)

Because BACE is an on-going, active organization, these records currently held by the Schlesinger Library represent only a portion of all records created to date. The bulk of the collection was compiled by Justine Kelliher, a founder and BACE's first instructor; Abigail Avery, BACE's second instructor; and Sylvia D. Sawin, treasurer and training coordinator for instructors. The records include bylaws, correspondence, minutes, teaching aids, newsletters and other printed material, conference reports, slides, phonograph records, videotapes, posters, and questionnaires filled out by BACE class members regarding their birth experience. Folder headings were supplied by the processor.

A set of archival masters for BACE Line, BACE Newsletter, and ICEA publications including Actionletter, Bookmarks, ICEA News, and ICEA Sharing is closed to research. Consult Schlesinger Library periodicals for reference copies.

Throughout the collection, individual items, particularly those containing personal information, are closed as noted to protect personal privacy.

Additional material received in 2012 (accession number 2012-M168) was added to the collection in May 2017. These materials are housed in #1.21, 2.20, and 4.9.

Series I, LEADERSHIP, 1934-1993 (#1.1-2.13, OD.1, E.1), contains board material such as annual reports, minutes, correspondence, and membership lists. The board notebook of Sylvia D. Sawin, correspondence and clippings from Abigail Avery, and biographical material and correspondence with Justine Kelliher are also included. BACE's web site is being captured periodically as part of Harvard University Library's Web Archive Collection service (WAX); searchable archived versions of the web site will be available through this finding aid in 2010.

Series II, COMMITTEES, 1948-1993 (#2.14-6.8, 21FB.1-22OB.3, F+D.1, OD.2, OD.3,1sl-2sl, Vt-137.1 - Vt-137.2, Phon-32.1 - Phon-32.2), contains material from five of BACE's committees: Class Study, Education, Policy and Steering, Program, and Training. The series includes reports, correspondence, agendas and minutes, event fliers, course announcements, class packets including syllabi, instructor applications, notes regarding class instruction, handbooks related to prepared childbirth, bibliographies, and filmographies, posters, videotapes, and record albums. There are also teaching aids such as the Forecaster (#6.5) a kind of slide ruler used for tracking a woman's cycle, Your Pregnancy Calculator (#6.6), and the Visible Woman (#21FB.1-21FB.3). In 2017, oversize teaching aids (formerly numbered as #21OB.1-21OB.4) were rehoused and renumbered.

Series III, NURSING MOTHERS' COUNCIL, 1964-1981, n.d. (#6.9-6.16), contains agendas and minutes, notes, correspondence, membership requirements, and materials for the postpartum project including proposals, agendas, memos, session reports, and notes.

Series IV, STUDENTS, 1949-1979 (#6.17-15.6, 23 CB, PD.1), contains correspondence, registration forms, class questionnaires, and birth reports. Correspondence from students covers their experiences with the classes, pregnancy, and labor. The class questionnaires and birth reports provide detailed information on the students' experiences giving birth.

Photocopies of class questionnaires, birth reports, registration forms, and student correspondence have been redacted; the originals are closed until January 1, 2050. They are filed numerically by the number BACE gave each student. Fragile questionnaires were photocopied and the copies were used for redacting.

Series V, INTERNATIONAL CHILDBIRTH EDUCATION ASSOCIATION (ICEA), 1955-1991 (#15.7-17.5, 17.20m), contains correspondence, childbirth preparation kits, instructors' kits, brochures, booklets, membership directories, conference materials, and handbooks. ICEA was the international professional organization for childbirth educators with which BACE was actively involved.

Series VI, OTHER ORGANIZATIONS AND PUBLICATIONS, 1939-1993 (#17.6-20.13), contains material from other childbirth and health care organizations, such as publishers, hospitals, and insurance companies. The section includes correspondence, booklets, newsletters, conference reports, teaching aids, and syllabi.


In 1953, a group of Boston-area mothers interested in reforming obstetrical and maternity care and in disseminating information about natural childbirth began to meet. In seeking to encourage family-centered maternity care and breastfeeding, Boston Association for Childbirth Education's first initiative was to provide classes for expectant parents which covered anatomy and physiology of pregnancy, labor, and delivery, instruction on breastfeeding, and daily exercises to aid mothers during pregnancy and labor. The classes were small, informal, and usually held in private homes; the first class was held in 1953. BACE also held general meetings with speakers, including doctors and nurses, discussing pregnancy and breast feeding, and child psychologists discussing child development; in addition, movies were shown. BACE also offered a library of books, movies, and pamphlets on childbirth and related issues. As interest in natural childbirth grew, BACE's membership expanded and its organizational structure came to include committees on class study, education, program, and training. The group incorporated as Boston Association for Childbirth Education in 1958. In 1962, the Nursing Mothers' Council was formed. Its purpose was to provide lay counselors who offered advice and counseling on breastfeeding to mothers.

One of the founders of BACE and its first instructor was Justine Kelliher, nurse and natural childbirth educator. Justine Oren (Woollett) Kelliher was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on October 22, 1920, to Ralph Sidney Woollett and Margaret Elizabeth (Smith) Woollett. She graduated from the Academy of the Sacred Heart in Albany, New York in 1938, attended summer courses on typing and shorthand at the Bryant and Stratton Business School (1938), received her B.A. from Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart (1942), an M.A. in biology from Brown University (1943), and an M.N. from Yale School of Nursing (1946), and participated in the Cadet Nurse Program at Yale. She married Giles Clement Kelliher in 1948; they had six children. She was a staff nurse at the Boston Lying-in Hospital (1946-1947) and the Boston Visiting Nurse Association (1947-1948); parent educator at St. Elizabeth's Hospital, Boston (1967); staff nurse at Beth Israel Hospital, Boston (1968); Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Newton, Massachusetts (1970-1971); Chetwynde Nursing Home, Newton (1980-1982). Kelliher began coaching mothers in natural childbirth in 1949; she retired as a nurse in 1982.


The collection is arranged into six series:

  1. Series I. Leadership, 1934-1993 (#1.1-2.13, OD.1, E.1)
  2. Series II. Committees, 1948-1993 (#2.14-6.8, 21FB.1-22OB.3, F+D.1, OD.2-OD.3, 1sl-2sl, Vt-137.1 - Vt-137.2, Phon-32.1 - Phon-32.2)
  3. Series III. Nursing Mothers' Council, 1964-1981, n.d. (#6.9-6.16)
  4. Series IV. Students, 1949-1979 (#6.17-15.6, 23CB, PD.1)
  5. Series V. International Childbirth Education Association, 1955-1991 (#15.7-17.5, 17.20m)
  6. Series VI. Other Organizations and Publications, 1939-1993 (#17.6-20.13)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2000-M57, 2003-M34, 2012-M168

These records of the Boston Association for Childbirth Education were given to the Schlesinger Library by the Boston Association for Childbirth Education in April 2000 and September 2012, and by Sylvia D. Sawin in March 2003.


The following items have been removed from the collection and transferred to the Schlesinger Library Book Department, January 2006:

  1. Briefs, vol. 29, no.7-vol. 47, no. 5.
  2. Birth and Family Journal, vol. 1, no. 1-vol. 7, no. 4.
  3. La Leche League News, vol. 12, no. 1-vol. 19, no. 3.

Processing Information

Processed: February 2006

By: Deborah A. Richards

Updated and additional material added: May 2017

By: Jenny Gotwals

Boston Association for Childbirth Education. Records of the Boston Association for Childbirth Education, 1934-1993 (inclusive), 1953-1993 (bulk): A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

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