Justine Kelliher, first BACE Educator, at the BACE-NMC 50th Birthday Celebration in 2003.
Justine Kelliher, first BACE Educator, at the BACE-NMC 50th Birthday Celebration in 2003.

BACE was established in 1953 and was one of about twenty organizations that came into existence in North America as part of a larger international movement for natural childbirth at that time. Grantly Dick-Read, a British obstetrician and author, was one of the primary inspirations for this trend.

In Boston, in the early 1950s, students of Jean Whiffen, a British physiotherapist, began meeting to form an organization to sponsor childbirth classes. Ms. Whiffen left the area, but BACE was founded and Justine Kelliher, a nurse and mother, became the group’s first instructor.

In 1962, BACE established the Nursing Mothers’ Council (NMC), the first breastfeeding support group in New England. When La Leche League (LLL) came to Massachusetts in 1964, many former NMC members were the first LLL leaders.

There were other changes in the 1960s. More childbirth instructors were hired and training programs were established. Area hospitals had begun to allow prepared fathers into the delivery room. BACE helped pioneer the concept of the husband as coach in classes, as well as in labor and delivery. BACE also led the fight for family-centered maternity care in Boston through film showings, speakers, and communications with professionals as well as with its own well-prepared couples.

BACE was one of the organizations represented at the founding convention of the International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA). BACE and NMC are active members of Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Association for Community Health Workers, Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition, and Partners in Perinatal Health.

BACE and NMC continue to grow and change in response to the educational needs of parents and professionals in the childbirth and breastfeeding communities.

A more extensive history of BACE can be found in the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at Harvard University.