The feature-length documentary Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin and The Farm Midwives tells the story of counterculture heroine Ina May Gaskin and her spirited friends, who began delivering each other’s babies in 1970 on a caravan of hippie school buses headed to a patch of rural Tennessee land. With Ina May as their leader, the women taught themselves midwifery from the ground up and, with their families, founded an entirely communal, agricultural society called “The Farm.” They grew their own food, built their own houses, published their own books, and, as word of their social experiment spread, created a model of care for women and babies that changed a generation’s approach to childbirth.
Forty years ago, Ina May led the charge away from isolated hospital birthing rooms, where husbands were not allowed and mandatory forceps deliveries were the norm. Today, as nearly one third of all US babies are born via C-section, she fights to preserve her community’s hard-won knowledge. With incredible access to the midwives’ archival video collection, the film not only captures the unique sisterhood at The Farm Clinic—from its heyday into the present—but shows childbirth the way most people have never seen it: unadorned, unabashed, and awe-inspiring.
The theme of this year’s film series at the Schlesinger Library is “Ages of Women.” This screening is co-sponsored by the Harvard College Women’s Center and Baraka Birth. Admission is free and open to the public.