A blog from our outgoing Executive Director, Elizabeth Duff


I am not a midwife. But I have worked with midwives since 1988 – on the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) journal Midwives, for the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) and till May this year for the Iolanthe Midwifery Trust.


Why? - you may well ask. In 1994, I read the short history of the ICM, published to mark its 75 years, called A Birthday for Midwives. A phrase in this says that ‘Midwives are tenacious, practical women’. I have found this pithy description to be almost universally true: and I would add, ‘determined, resourceful, innovative’. So they are good people to work with. The history also says: ‘Midwives have rarely been wealthy’: another bald truth, which means that midwives have to work out how most effectively to use slender financial resources.


I have just left the Iolanthe Midwifery Trust, after 17 years of being, first, a trustee, and then Executive Director. Most of this experience has been interesting and enjoyable; inevitably, some has been frustrating, challenging and burdensome. During those rarer periods of stress, two things about this small charity kept me going.


The first was the trustees and the way they generously give their time, skills and commitment. I have known 26 trustees. All have been thoughtful, diligent, creative (when needed) and have demonstrated a high level of integrity. In addition, (which the Charity Commission does not specify as part of the role) they have made the trustee group a friendly forum where meetings are fun as well as effective.


The second always positive aspect of the work was the reading of the many applications for funding. Midwives and students seek support for academic work, skills training, travel (to conferences or for intercultural learning) and projects in practice. The range of ideas has demonstrated how midwifery can link to biochemistry, nutrition, social work, psychology and other disciplines – as well as art, music, cookery and needlework! It has been a great satisfaction, occasionally, to help a project that arises from ‘thinking outside the box’ and is unlikely to attract funding elsewhere. The investment of a few hundred pounds has so often reaped a greater benefit, with the midwife’s energy reinvigorated by the feeling of being ‘special’ after selection from the list of applicants.


That is why I have worked with midwives. And I’m not stopping. One of my new roles is in a group researching and writing a further history of the ICM, to be completed for its centenary in 2019. I hope we can confirm the conclusion of the 75th anniversary that midwives are, at the very least, tenacious and practical. My experience with the Iolanthe Midwifery Trust shows they are far more than that.



A blog from our outgoing Trustee, Julie Wray


Julie qualified as a midwife in 1982 and after working clinically in hospitals and community moved into a research post then into academia. She has always sought to reflect women's experiences and capture their voice in all aspect of her work so as to improve care; this was a strong feature of her PhD study for which she was awarded the Iolanthe midwifery research fellowship. Julie is particularly interested in postnatal care and motherhood.


Being part of the Iolanthe Midwifery Trust has been an absolute privilege, especially as in 2008 I received the research fellowship. This award changed my life. Primarily it supported the completion of my doctorate study on womens health after birth but more than boosted my confidence and self belief in the pursuit of lobbying for better postnatal care for women. For example I jumped at the chance to appear on woman's hour with Dame Jenni Murray to highlight key issues facing women in their recovery after birth. And in helping with the RCM pressure points on postnatal care publication.


Without Iolanthe's support I feel these opportunities would not have been possible. As a further commitment and gratitude to this wonderful charity I decided in 2012 to became a Trustee (following a rigorous interview!) in fact my appointment was at the exact same time as Sheena Byrom the now Chair of Trustees. Working at board level as been so interesting and exciting with such amazing and dedicated people, whom believe so passionately in supporting student midwives and midwives to advance care for women and their babies. I have been well impressed.



But as with all things in life there comes a time when we need to take stock of our work/life balance. Well recently I have done just that and decided to step down as a Trustee. For me working with and for the Iolanthe has been a fabulous experience and I love the Iolanthe Trust and its values. The current Trustees I feel sure will continue to progress education, practice and research in supporting improvements in the care of mother and babies. I wish everyone good health, joy and happiness......I don't do goodbyes - so see you later! It's been a brilliant journey.