* Joan Donley, OBE, midwife, home birth advocate. Died aged 89

In her 30-odd years as a midwife in Auckland, Joan Donley delivered, or "caught" as she preferred to say, between 700 and 800 babies. One of the first arrived on her dining-room table.

When she began her career in New Zealand, in the early 1970s, she was one of only three domiciliary, or home-based, midwives in the country. Now the New Zealand College of Midwives, which she helped to found, represents more than 2000 members.

Mrs Donley died on December 4 after several years of poor health following a stroke.

She felt very strongly that the role of the midwife had been undermined and in 1985 she published Save the Midwife (New Women's Press), which charted the history of the profession.

The "downfall" began, she said, when women started to go to hospital to have their babies and were given painkillers during labour.

She was keen to see the health system remodelled so that more women could have their babies at home or in small nursing-homes, where the midwife could play a greater part in their care.

The job, she said, gave enormous job satisfaction.

"You develop a relationship with every mother and baby ... After you've been in the job a while you have this lovely feeling that there are all those people out there who have good vibes towards you."

In 1990, changes to legislation, pushed through by Health Minister Helen Clark, meant that midwives could care for women throughout pregnancy and childbirth without the involvement of doctors.

In 1992, Mrs Donley visited China to learn traditional Chinese medicine and methods of acupuncture and homeopathy to assist in childbirth. She was a firm believer in drug-free labour as far as it was possible, and was an outspoken critic of high-technology childbirth.

She was a founding member of the NZ Homebirth Association, and was made an OBE in 1989 for her work in this field as well as midwifery.

Joan Carey was born in Regina, Saskatchewan, in Canada in 1916. When she left school she trained as a nurse and then worked in a general maternity ward in Vancouver. During a period at a small hospital in Pender Bay in British Columbia, she met and married Bob Donley, a fisherman. The couple worked a cod boat out of Vancouver, and Mrs Donley became one of the first women in British Columbia to become licensed for hand-lining cod.

Five children later, in 1964, the family moved to NZ. The marriage broke up in 1970, and Mrs Donley qualified as a midwife in order to support her family.

She is survived by her children, 12 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.