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Western Australia - Glossary Term

Lying-in Home (1890s - 1920s)

  • Nurse Mulder Maternity Home

    Nurse Mulder Maternity Home, 1910 - 1920, courtesy of Victoria Hobbs collection of photographs, State Library of Western Australia.

Alternative Names
  • Maternity Home (also known as, 1918 - 1960s)

A lying-in home was a private home or hospital where mothers could give birth with the help of a midwife. From 1907, lying-in homes in Western Australia had to be registered (including those run by the government). In early years, the midwife may not have had formal qualifications but this changed in 1912. Midwives sometimes helped mothers who had to go out to work to find 'care' for their babies. Sometimes this involved adoption.


The State Children Act 1907 defined a lying-in home as:

a place for the accommodation of females during their confinement and lying-in, and includes any home maintained for such purpose by the Government. (Section 4)
This Act had carried over some of the infant life protection elements in section 7 of the Health Act 1898 which had failed so dismally to protect infants and their families from the practice of baby farming. Licensing the premises where infants were born was a natural step forward in regulating the care of children and young people in the State. In 1918, registration for lying-in Homes became the responsibility of the Commissioner of Health, through the Health Act Amendment Act 1918.

The Health Act 1911 made it compulsory for all midwives to be registered and set up a Midwives Registration Board to ensure formal qualifications were developed for future midwives. These requirements came into effect on 1 January 1912. The number of lying-in homes fell as the requirements of midwifery training became more rigorous.

Related Legislation

Related Organisations


Online Resources


Nurse Mulder Maternity Home
Nurse Mulder Maternity Home
1910 - 1920
Victoria Hobbs collection of photographs, State Library of Western Australia


Prepared by: Debra Rosser and Caroline Evans