The archive of Sheila Kitzinger (1929-2015)

  • Kitzinger, Sheila, 1929-2015
  • Archives and manuscripts

About this work


The archive consists of a wide variety of material. The majority of the papers are correspondence with mothers and professionals around the world as well as cuttings and journal articles relating to books and talks Kitzinger worked on. The files also contain a small amount of administrative documentation relating to various committees and organisations with which she was involved. Subjects include (but are not limited to): waterbirths, breastfeeding, crisis births, infertility, STDs, teenage motherhood, fathers, disability, contraception, HIV/AIDS, motherhood internationally, asylum seekers, mothers in warzones, hospitals, Caesarean births, twins, postnatal support, mothers in prison, birth traditions and homebirth.

Items have been grouped and named as they were by Sheila unless stated otherwise



Physical description

106 boxes, 1 box of oversize material, 26 digital items 602 MB (631505533 bytes)


Sheila Kitzinger kept fairly organised records with her papers split by subject into different drawers and files around the house. There were hanging files of correspondence and some hanging files of research subjects but as these grew too large she moved on to organise certain subjects in dedicated drawers. Rather than have a long list of Subject Files the cataloguer has split all of the files using an arrangement as close to Shelia's. The listing is as follows:

A: Correspondence (sorted into the hanging files and the material from drawers)

B: Publicity Material

C: Publications and Manuscripts by Sheila Kitzinger (Split into her manuscripts, published books, her original thesis and the material relating to her work on "Birth Crisis")

D: Pregnancy Publications for Research

E: Pregnancy and Birth Research Files (sorted by hanging files, drawers and then by related subjects.)

Biographical note

Sheila Kitzinger was born in 1929 in Somerset. She trained to be a vocal and acting teacher but later decided to go to Oxford to study social anthropology. She married and had her first child in 1956: a homebirth which shocked many at the time.

She began to work with the NCT in 1958, but took issue with the teachings of Dick-Read and Lamaze. She wasn't just interested in breathing and exercises, but rather took an anthropological and psychosexual approach - she was "more interested in minds than muscles" and wanted to reclaim birth as an experience rather than a medical event. With this in mind she lectured extensively and internationally and taught expectant mothers and couples with and without the NCT.

In 1962 she gained a certain amount of notoriety with her book Experience of Childbirth. She argued against the medicalisation of childbirth and claimed the woman's wishes should be paramount. Kitzinger went on to become a prolific writer, known for speaking to women in their own voice and not haranguing or confusing with overly academic language. In 1964 she moved to Jamaica with her family, where she conducted research into childbirth.

Throughout the late-1960s and 70s she toured extensively, giving lectures and classes internationally, including America, where she clashed with feminists who believed that women were entitled to pain free births, Canada, South America, China and Japan among others. During the 1980s she became involved in campaigns for a number of issues such as FGM. In 1985 she met Wendy Savage and became an active part of the Wendy Savage Appeal Fund. She claimed that "her suspension was a direct attack on community obstetric care".

Throughout the 80s, 90s, and 2000s she continued to write and tour, working on issues such as women in warzones, asylum seekers and mothers in prison. She died in 2015 and is celebrated in her obituary as having "done more than anyone else to change attitudes to childbirth in the past 50 years".

Books by Kitzinger held in the Wellcome Library include but are not limited to:

Related material

Sheila Kitzinger worked closely with The National Childbirth Trust (NCT, previously known as the Natural Childbirth Trust), whose archive is held at Wellcome Collection. See the NCT archive catalogue for more details.

Terms of use

This collection has been catalogued and is available to library members. Some items have access restrictions which are explained in the item-level catalogue records.

Language note

The majority of this collection is in English, however Kitzinger received letters from around the world and travelled widely for conferences so some material is not.


Permanent link


Accession number

  • 2273
  • 2300