The Royal College of Midwives is the trade union and professional organisation for midwives in the United Kingdom.
The College was founded in 1881 as the Trained Midwives Registration Society, at the instigation of Zepherina Veitch, a midwife from London, but shortly afterwards changed its name to the Midwives’ Institute.
Its early years were dominated by the campaign to establish the regulation of midwives and midwifery, which was often opposed by the medical profession who saw midwives as unwellcome competition. Despite this the Midwives’ Act 1902 was passed that established the Central Midwives’ Board, to regulate the training and practice of midwives and which made it illegal for any unqualified person to act as a midwife; a further Midwives’ Act 1936 established a salaried midwifery service under the control of local government.
In 1941 the Midwives’ Institute changed its name to become the College of Midwives; in 1946 it took over the Scottish Midwives Association; and following the granting of a Royal Charter in 1947 it became the Royal College of Midwives. In 1976 the members of the College voted to formally become a trade union and the old College was formally divided into the Royal College of Midwives’ Limited (which carries on the trade union type activities) and the Royal College of Midwives’ Trust (which is an educational charity).