Jennifer Worth's Life


Jennifer was born into a middle class family and had a comfortable upbringing in Buckinghamshire. She drained and qualified in Reading as a nurse. After that Jenny continued her draining and qualified as a midwife.

At the age of 22 she went to Poplar, the East End of London.  As a district midwife she joined the Anglican order of nuns.

She describes vividly the scene of the ‘50s in the East End where the underworld reigned, under age pregnancies, prostitution, illegal abortions, binge-drinking and  wife-beating. Jenny saw it all including the TB raging in the slums.

She describes vividly the streets she used to go down. There were the painted faces looking through dirty windows. Next to it were clean houses with curtains and the front door step scrubbed. It is incredible but they did live next to each other.

However, as she remarked they were only there to help. Day and night they went on their bikes and delivered babies by gaslight and many times nothing more than hot water, towels and cheerfulness. Each was given a certain district and it could be up to a 100 babies as month.

Jenny quotes many of her experiences. One was really outstanding. A Spanish woman bearing her husband 25 children but their parents could not speak each other’s language.

Another episode she mentioned. Her friend went out to a boat lying in the docks. The captain’s daughter suffered of stomach pains and cramps. When her friend got there she found a 35 stone woman and her stomach pains were labour pains. Her friend remarked that it was not surprising because there were 20 sailors on the boat and she loved them all.

The book is full of these incredible but true stories.

Her husband remarked that Jenny must have experienced a great shock since she came from a good family but her kindness could see the suffering which she tried to lessen.

When she left nursing in ‘70s because the rules overwhelmed the real nursing and she became disillusioned. She saw an article about books being written about various professions and she decided to write about her life of a midwife.  The Book ‘Call the Midwife’ is a great legacy telling us about lives of not so long ago.  Eventually, Jenny wrote three books which tell about a world but does not exist anymore. The East End of London was in those days a world of its own. They all turned into bestsellers. This attracted TV.

A series made by TV based on her books and life. The first show was last Sunday and had eight million viewers. It was astonishing but not surprisingly.

Unfortunately, Jenny could not see because she died in May 2011 at the age of 75 years, of cancer. Before she died she had a lot of influence on the script written. She also chose the actress who is playing her.