Maternity Homes

Maternity homes, specializing in the care of parturient women from their surrounding areas, appeared in Saskatchewan as early as 1895. They reached peak numbers toward the end of the Depression and into the early years of World War II. The homes were located mainly in rural towns and villages. Committed to avoiding the anxiety associated with home births and the assistance of the by-then-unfashionable midwife, these homes offered Saskatchewan women inexpensive maternity care in their own communities.They were most often run by a married or widowed woman who had only practical experience instead of formal training; by 1940, just over a third of maternity home matrons were graduate nurses. Such a home-based business was practical for a woman who was in need of an income and had some knowledge of childbirth. Though there was not a great deal of profit to be made, these nurses usually enjoyed long-term careers as health care providers.

The widespread use of these private maternity services represented a mid-phase in the transition from home to hospital births prior to the CCF building boom that radically increased the number of available hospitals in the late 1940s. This post-war social policy also changed what was deemed adequate and efficient health care, and it soon became clear that maternity homes did not meet these modern standards. A small number did, however, operate until the early 1960s in more northerly and isolated areas.

Laurel Halladay

Further Reading

Halladay, L. 1996. “‘We'll See You Next Year:' Maternity Homes in Southern Saskatchewan in the First Half of the Twentieth Century.” MA thesis, Carleton University.