"Go to Ruth's House": The Social Activism of Ruth Lubic and the Family Health and Birth Center

By Fairman, Julie | Nursing History Review, January 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

"Go to Ruth's House": The Social Activism of Ruth Lubic and the Family Health and Birth Center


Fairman, Julie, Nursing History Review


Abstract. This case of the work of Ruth Watson Lubic, an internationally known nurse midwife and women's and children's health care activist, provides a modern-day example of the intersection of forceful individual personalities, nursing as a type of activism in itself, and grassroots and local actions that produce larger movement-based activist organizations. Her work as a nurse midwife, in partnership with other nurse midwives, physicians, and community members, illustrates how the efforts of individual actors at a grassroots community level can be as significant as larger traditionally situated activist movements on the lives of everyday citizens.

If I could leave you with the single most important prescription to address the tragic and seemingly intransigent phenomenon known as infant mortality it would be this: Go to Ruth's House. 1

So testified physician Ronald David in his address to congressional staffers in 2007. David, a neonatologist, was cochair of the 2005 National Commission on Infant Mortality of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. 2 "Ruth" is Ruth Lubic, an eighty-year-old (in 2009) internationally known nurse-midwife who has over decades worked on issues of social justice, and in particular for the improvement of women's and children's health across all races, ethnic groups, and classes.

"Ruth's House" is the freestanding Family Health and Birth Center Lubic opened in northeast Washington, D.C., in 2000, an area with one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country. The center is, as Ruth calls it, "the glue that holds together social support and child care services" that were long inadequate in this area populated by immigrant and low-income families. 3 Lubic is the glue that holds together the whole enterprise-the center's philosophy and its services-and she provides a modern-day example of the intersection of forceful individual personalities, nursing as a type of activism in itself, and grassroots and local actions that produce larger movement-based activist organizations. Her work as a nurse midwife, in partnership with other nurse midwives, physicians, and community members, illustrates how the efforts of individual actors at a grassroots community level can be as significant as larger traditionally situated activist movements on the lives of everyday citizens. 4

Nursing, as a female-gendered profession with social and cultural mandates to provide a broadly defined array of care services, is situated at the fulcrum where health disparities and social justice movements intertwine. Its history illustrates this nexus through its long tradition of focusing on the issues of children's and women's health, and interceding between the dominant power of local and national governments and medical men and women, and disenfranchised groups and populations. We see this in examples such as the settlement house movement and Lillian Wald's work with others to establish the Children's Bureau in the early twentieth century, midwife Mary Breckinridge and the Frontier Nursing midwifery service and school, the clinics and nurse midwifery programs of the Maternity Center Association in New York City, as well as the later school nurse movement. 5 There are, of course, other professions that work from a foundation of social justice, and other areas of focus for nursing activism, but nursing's involvement with children and women represents a century-long continuity for practice and policy.

Until the early twentieth century, women traditionally gave birth in their home surrounded by friends and family. 6 But in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as childbirth became medicalized and paternalized and pregnancy was reconceptualized as a kind of pathologic state, childbearing women gradually lost control of the process, birthing in institutions controlled by medical practitioners and characterized by a rising caesarean section rate. The unique contribution of women's social support before, during, and after births was deprioritized in favor of scientific methods, technology, and institutionalization of medical expertise. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

"Go to Ruth's House": The Social Activism of Ruth Lubic and the Family Health and Birth Center
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.