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

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					“Go to Ruth’s House”: The Social
Activism of Ruth Lubic and the
Family Health and Birth Center

Julie Fairman
University of Pennsylvania




     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

Nursing History Review 18 (2010): 118–129. A Publication of the American Association for the History
of Nursing. Copyright © 2010 Springer Publishing Company.
DOI: 10.1891/1062–8061.18.118
                                         The Social Activism of Ruth Lubic       119


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
				
DOCUMENT INFO
Description: 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. [PUBLICATION ABSTRACT]
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