In honor of Women’s History Month, Jewish Treats presents a brief biography of Flora Suhd Hommel, a woman whose lifework benefited thousands of other women. Hommel was one of the primary proponents of self-regulatory pain control during childbirth, and one of the first Lamaze instructors in the United States.
Born on March 16, 1928, and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Hommel spent her early married years in Paris, where her husband was studying music. When Hommel discovered that she was pregnant, she became quite anxious since all she knew of childbirth were the “war stories” she had heard from her mother and other female relatives. During her pregnancy, however, she discovered the growing movement for natural, alert childbirth (as opposed to the then common option of sedating the mother) and was delighted with the results during her own daughter’s delivery. Hommel became determined to share her positive experience with other women and began studying with Dr. Ferdinand Lamaze.
In 1953, the Hommels returned to the Detroit, and, in 1958, Flora earned her nursing degree from Wayne University. Two years later, Hommel established the Childbirth Without Pain Education Association (CWPEA). Her organization not only advocated for women’s choices during childbirth, but it also established training programs for birthing coaches. CWPEA particularly promoted using the Lamaze process of breathing, and encouraged expectant fathers to be part of the delivery process (or at least for husbands to be allowed into the birthing room). In addition to her work as the head of the CWPEA, Hommel served on the Detroit Health Commission. She was also a civil rights activist and spoke out against the War in Vietnam.
In 1994, she was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame. Her papers were donated to Wayne State University. Flora Suhd Hommel passed away on May, 15, 2015.