‘Mother of midwifery’ dies at 95
Lillian Runnerstrom’s passion for midwifery led to the training of a cadre of professionals who, taken as a group, attended the births of more than 12,000 babies.
As professor and head of maternal/child nursing at the University of Illinois at Chicago from 1969 to 1980, Runnerstrom founded UIC’s nurse midwifery program — the first advanced-practice program in the UIC College of Nursing, and the first midwifery educational program in Illinois.
Runnerstrom, a resident of Fort Myers, Florida, died June 12.
“Lillian was the mother of midwifery at UIC, and in Illinois,” said Barbara McFarlin, UIC associate professor and head of the department that is now called women, child and family health science. “Her vision and persistence has given us all the opportunity to be educated as midwives and practice as midwives.”
Midwives are professionals who provide an array of health care services for women, including gynecological examinations, contraceptive counseling and prescriptions in addition to attending during labor and birth. Since its inception in 1972, more than 500 nurse midwives have graduated from UIC’s midwifery program, now ranked 10th in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
The UIC College of Nursing honored Runnerstrom in 2003 by establishing the Lillian Runnerstrom Institute of Excellence in the Study of Women, Children, and Family Health. The institute furthers its namesake’s goals by supporting creative teaching and innovative research. It provides scholarships to undergraduate and graduate nursing students in women’s health, midwifery, pediatrics and family health.
Lillian Nina Taglibue Runnerstrom was born in 1920 in Bayville, New York. She became a registered nurse in 1941 after attending St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing in New York. She moved to Ohio with her husband and worked as a staff nurse in the delivery room at Ohio State University Hospital from 1942-46. After the birth of a child in 1946 and a divorce, Runnerstrom returned to the east coast.
She furthered her education in New York, earning a B.S. in 1952 and a M.A. in 1955 at Columbia University’s Teachers’ College. She certified as a nurse midwife in 1955 after studying at the Maternity Center Association in New York City.
In 1963, Runnerstrom received her Ph.D. from New York University. She served as an instructor in various hospitals while working towards her degrees.
From 1963 to 1965, Runnerstrom was an assistant professor of maternity nursing at UCLA, then assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University from 1967 to 1969. She also served as president of the American College of Nurse Midwives from 1967 until 1969, when she came to UIC. Runnerstrom also served as consultant to the World Health Organization in Thailand, as well as numerous other health organizations, hospitals and universities.
Runnerstrom is survived by her sister, Edith; son, Eric; daughter-in-law, Michelle; four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Gifts in her memory may be donated to the Lillian Runnerstrom Institute, UIC College of Nursing, MC 802, Office of Advancement, 845 S. Damen Ave., Chicago, 60612-7350.