In 2019 ICM celebrates 100 years since the first meeting was recorded in Belgium in 1919, the year after the first world war ended.
It is known that midwives have been making efforts to meet internationally for more than 100 years. There are records of a midwives´ conference held in Berlin, Germany, in the year 1900, when over 1,000 midwives attended. Very impressive considering at that time there were no telephones, computers, credit cards or aeroplanes, and it was not easy or even acceptable for women to travel on their own. In 1919, a group of European midwives, centred in Antwerp, Belgium, established the first beginnings of what was to become the International Confederation of Midwives. By this time, many countries already had a national association of midwives; communication among them increased and a series of regular meetings was launched.
During the 1930s and 1940s, travel and communication in Europe was disrupted by war and unrest. Unfortunately, the detailed records of the earlier midwives´ meetings and documents were destroyed.
It is not clear that every Congress was Triennial: the RCM UK book 'Behind the Blue Door' points out that the 6th Annual Congress of the International Midwives Union was held in London in 1934. Certainly there were Congresses from the late 1920's and this record would suggest a first Congress in 1928/29. At the 1934 Congress, 309 members attended from 10 countries and 5 other countries sent representatives including India and China. The Patron of the 1934 Congress was HRH the Duchess of York, later to become Queen and then Queen Mother.
After the end of the second world war in 1945, the Swedish Midwives contacted the UK midwives to see if they could revive the pre-war international grouping. In 1949 an international meeting was held in London attended by eight European countries. Over the next five years they planned a Congress and the 1954 Congress was attended by 800 midwives from 46 countries. There have been Triennial Congresses since then. As a result of the Congress, the name ´International Confederation of Midwives´ was decided and established in 1955 replacing the former International Midwives Union. The HQ was established in London with the RCM's assistant secretary Marjorie Bays as the ICM's first executive secretary.
The ICM Council decided in 1999 to move the location of the headquarters office from London to The Hague, in the Netherlands and it has been there since. The headquarters' permanent staff has increased from the appointment in 1987 of one part-time executive secretary, to the present larger group including the Chief Executive, Technical Midwife Advisors, Communications Manager, Project Coordinator and other part-time administrative staff.
The Council meets in full every three years immediately before Congress over four days. Each Midwives Association, irrespective of size, sends two voting delegates to the Congress. The maximum strength of Council is 2 x 108 Midwives Associations. Delegates debate and discuss policy and update core documents for example Position Statements, Guidelines, and Midwifery Standards. They provide strategic direction for ICM. They review financial statements and reports. The Board for the next triennium is appointed. Council also hears presentations from three shortlisted Midwives Associations (countries) and votes on the Congress country for 6 years hence.
ICM Congresses have become the major, regular focus for midwives’ global business, professional and scientific meetings. In addition, regional meetings and conferences are often held in the years between Congresses. The venue for each Congress is decided six years ahead, and the event is co-hosted by ICM and one of its Midwives Associations. Venues over the past 50 years have included Jerusalem, Kobe, Manila, Santiago, Sydney, Vancouver and Washington, as well as numerous European cities.
The Wellcome Library holds the ICM archive. Click here for further details of materials held in the archive.