Uncovering the Real Life Inspiration Behind Call The Midwife

Uncovering the Real Life Inspiration Behind Call The Midwife

With season 11 about to get a Free to Air premiere on ABC TV we take a look at the real life inspiration behind the much loved Call The Midwife.

Memoirs of a Midwife

Call the Midwife, a British period drama series based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, has become a beloved classic since it first aired in 2012. The show follows the lives of a group of midwives and nurses in East London during the 1950s and ’60s. The series has been praised for its realism and for its depiction of the era’s social issues. But what many people don’t know is that the show is based on real-life events.

The show is based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, a midwife who worked in London’s East End from 1953 to 1965. The memoirs, entitled “Call the Midwife: A True Story of the East End in the 1950s”, provide an insight into the lives of the midwives, nuns and mothers of the time.

East End Life

The show is set in the East End district of Poplar (although the TV Nonnatus House is actually based at the Longcross Film Studios in Surrey). The area was one of the poorest in London during the 1950s and 1960s, with high levels of poverty, overcrowding and disease. The show highlights the struggles of the East Enders as they try to make a better life for themselves.

Real Life Characters

One of the most important figures in the show is Sister Julienne (played in the series by Jenny Agutter), who is based on the real-life Sister Mary Cynthia. Sister Mary Cynthia was a nun who worked as a midwife in the East End and was a mentor to Jennifer Worth. Sister Mary Cynthia was a strong advocate for better healthcare for mothers and babies in the area.

The show also features Sister Monica Joan (Judy Parfitt), a character who is based not a nun but a very close friend of Worth’s.

The show has also featured some of the real-life people who worked in the area, such as Dr. Patrick Turner, the local doctor played in the series by Stephen McGann, and Nonnatus house handyman Fred Buckle (Cliff Parisi).  These characters were based on real-life figures who worked in the area and provided invaluable help to the midwives and nurses.

Jessica Raine as Jenny Lee in Call The Midwife
Jessica Raine as Jenny Lee in Call The Midwife

Jenny Lee (Jessica Raine) who appears in the first three seasons of the show was of course inspired by Jennifer Worth herself.

No Easy Life

The show also offers a glimpse into the midwives’ lives and the medical practices of the time. For example, in the 1950s, midwives often used herbal remedies, such as raspberry leaf tea, to help induce labour. They also used forceps and ventouse to help deliver babies, and relied on the help of the local community to provide assistance during deliveries.

The show also highlights the social issues of the time, such as racism, sexism and classism. In one episode, a young black girl is denied an education due to the colour of her skin. In another, a young woman is faced with the prospect of being sent away to a mother and baby home due to her unmarried status.

Call the Midwife is a powerful show that offers an insight into the lives of midwives and mothers in the 1950s and 1960s. It is a reminder of the struggles faced by the people of the East End during a time of great social change. It is also a reminder of the importance of midwives in providing care and support to mothers and babies in the community.

Season 11 of Call The Midwife premieres Saturday 7 January 2023 at 7.30pm on ABC TV.

Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.