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31 January 2019 / leggypeggy

Legendary midwife dies at age 96

Rhodanthe Lipsett

Rhodanthe earns an honorary doctorate and comforts a crying baby. Photo by Gary Schafer

Another John in my life (not Poor John) called recently to say Rhodanthe, his wife of 61 years, had died. This was heartbreaking news, but not unexpected. Four days after her death, Rhodanthe would have turned 97, but she’d been failing for some time.

I met Rhodanthe about 15 years ago at the local gym. Yes, the gym! A friend and I went to the gym every Tuesday and Thursday. Our visits always coincided with the Super Seniors gym class. After a couple of years, it made sense to join the class.

Rhodanthe had been part of the class for years, and the exercise (including weights) had served her well. About 10 years ago, she fell and cracked her hip. The doctor said that the gym exercise had built up the muscle around her hip and helped her to heal more quickly than expected.

From the time I first knew her, Rhodanthe always walked from her house to the gym (about 15 minutes), but the time came when macular degeneration robbed her of eyesight and I became her gym chauffeur. I often took her to other appointments.

Rhodanthe and I were on the same page when it came to driving her around. I can still hear many of those conversations.
Me: Rhodanthe would you like a lift to your appointment?
Her John: No, we’ll walk or take the bus.
Me: I didn’t ask you, John? Rhodanthe, would you like a lift?
Rhodanthe: Yes please.

In spite of her deteriorating vision and a general slowing down, Rhodanthe kept coming to the gym until about 18 months ago. All her gym buddies were a bit relieved when she reluctantly agreed to ‘retire’. She had a cavalier attitude to some of the equipment and we lived on tenterhooks, expecting her to fall at any time.

About a year ago, she fell again—at home. The prospects weren’t good. She was in hospital for some time and then in rehab. She wasn’t expected to survive back then. But with support from family, friends, doctors and community nurses, she lasted another year.

But my headline refers to a ‘legendary midwife’. So let me tell you about that aspect of Rhodanthe.

Elizabeth (left) and Rhodanthe Lipsett

Rhodanthe (right) and Elizabeth (both in their 90s) enjoy morning tea at seniors gym

Rhodanthe, the midwife
Rhodanthe was passionate about new mothers and their babies. In fact, she spent more than 65 years catering for them. It’s calculated that she assisted 23,000 local mothers and their newborns.

She was so concerned about their welfare, that she wrote No one right way—a handbook for parents coping with the first three months of their baby’s life. This book was first published in 2004. It highlights the fact that there is no one right way to raise a baby.

Baby Care by Rhodanthe LipsettAn updated and revised edition of that book was released in 2012 with the new name of Baby care: nurturing your baby your way.

Rhodanthe specified that royalties from the book should support the education of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander midwives. She believed Indigenous women would have improved pregnancy and birth outcomes if their care came from midwives who shared their culture and language. This led to the creation of The Rhodanthe Lipsett Indigenous Midwifery Trust. The trust provides scholarships to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders studying to become midwives. Last year, 14 students received scholarships worth $54,000.


In 2012 and at age 90, Rhodanthe was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Canberra for a lifetime of services to baby and maternal health. She was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in 1992.

I could go on and on about Rhodanthe, but I’ll leave you with some options to explore. Here’s a link to the news item about her honorary doctorate. Here’s a link to a short history about her life (includes a link to an interview with her).

Memorial service
A memorial service will be held Sunday, 17 February, at St John’s Church Hall, Reid, ACT, at 3pm. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to The Rhodanthe Lipsett Indigenous Midwifery Trust.


Leave a Comment
  1. Anna / Jan 31 2019 11:51 pm

    What an amazing lady! May she rest in peace.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ilze / Feb 1 2019 12:11 am

    What a nice story about an amazing lady! Midwife? Can you explain to me what is it? Is it related to homebirth?

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Feb 1 2019 10:21 am

      Midwives are trained to help women through childbirth, whether at home or in hospital.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. gigglingfattie / Feb 1 2019 12:14 am

    I’m so sorry to hear of the passing of your friend. She seems like one extraordinary woman!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Popping Wheelies / Feb 1 2019 12:15 am

    Wonderful lady, and I’m sorry for your loss. I glad you had her in your lives for so long. She set an example which most of us should remember.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. derrickjknight / Feb 1 2019 12:44 am

    A wonderful tribute


  6. ksbeth / Feb 1 2019 1:25 am

    great tribute to a woman who meant so much to so many

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Sherry Thomas / Feb 1 2019 1:42 am

    Thanks for this tribute. And I was one of the lucky ones who got to go to the gym with her!

    Sent from my iPad

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Feb 1 2019 10:23 am

      I’ve dragged a lot of friends to the gym to meet her (and exercise). So glad you were among them.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. beetleypete / Feb 1 2019 2:38 am

    Lovely tribute, Peggy. What a wonderfully positive life she led, and happy to see that grand old lady lived to see the benefits of her dedication, with the legacy she left behind.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Feb 1 2019 10:24 am

      Rhodanthe touched so many lives. And as you say, she left a remarkable legacy.

      Liked by 3 people

  9. Sy S. / Feb 1 2019 2:41 am


    Sorry to here of your lose of a good friend! As you had written in the past “Rhodanthe” is such a pretty name… and you often have given her a “Lift” to the Senior Gym. Nice to read that an older woman, lived a full and good life and able to do things in her older years. May she rest in peace!

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Feb 1 2019 11:23 am

      She was a go-getter. In nature, Rhodanthe is also known as a sunray or pink paper daisy. The name is derived from the Greek rhodon, for rose, and anthos, for flower.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Dreamtemples / Feb 1 2019 2:41 am

    A truly wonderful person who lived a remarkable life! This post brought back memories of a mid-wife who was with me during the delivery of my younger son. I still remember her with gratitude.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Feb 1 2019 11:26 am

      I’ve had two children and two wonderful midwives in different parts of the world.


  11. Anthony / Feb 1 2019 3:02 am

    A wonderful tribute. My condolences.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Sharon Smith / Feb 1 2019 5:55 am

    I am so sorry to hear of Rhodanthe’s passing. What an incredible woman who has left such a wonderful and inspiring legacy.

    On your recommendation I read ‘No one right way’ when I was pregnant and further recommended it to so many people.

    Much love to you and thoughts are with her John too ,who I’m fairly certain is the John we did some dog walks together with. Bless her beautiful soul. x

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Feb 1 2019 11:28 am

      Yes Sharon, you remember right. Rhodanthe’s John is the person we’ve walked dogs with. I’m glad you found her book so useful. She often received letters from people thanking her for her advice and insight.


  13. magarisa / Feb 1 2019 7:54 am

    A lovely tribute to an amazing lady.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Dippy Dotty Girl / Feb 1 2019 8:13 am

    This is such a lovely tribute to your friend, Peggy. It must feel unreal to lose her.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. gerard oosterman / Feb 1 2019 9:31 am

    What a great woman and her life well lived.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Feb 1 2019 11:29 am

      You’re right Gerard. She lived life very well.


  16. Vicki / Feb 1 2019 9:52 am

    What a remarkable lady (and life).
    Thanks for sharing her story, Peggy.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Feb 1 2019 11:30 am

      You are most welcome Vicki. Rhodanthe was truly remarkable and touched so many lives.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Denise Rawling / Feb 1 2019 10:48 am

    thank you for this lovely tribute. I treasured my contact with Rhodanthe – meeting mainly at the gym – one of those people who just enrich your life. Lovely photo of our two leading lights at gym!

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Feb 1 2019 11:31 am

      You are most welcome Denise. The gym has created a special connection for all of us.


  18. / Feb 1 2019 12:02 pm

    May the memory of her life bring you some comfort. Take care.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Feb 1 2019 2:28 pm

      I think Rohdanthe will always be there, hovering over our shoulders.


  19. Sheryl / Feb 1 2019 1:54 pm

    What a heart-warming story! I enjoyed reading this tribute to a very special person.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Feb 1 2019 2:31 pm

      Thanks for stopping by and for commenting. Rhodanthe was truly special.


  20. Emma Cownie / Feb 1 2019 6:33 pm

    That’s a beautiful photo at the top of you post – almost like a Renaissance painting. Rhodanthe was clearly a lovely lady who lived life to the full, there can much satisfaction in that. I am sorry for your loss.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Feb 1 2019 10:28 pm

      Thanks Emma, I agreed completely and so wish I had taken that amazing photograph.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Sharon Bonin-Pratt / Feb 1 2019 6:43 pm

    Peggy, thank you for sharing the life of Rhodanthe Lipsett. She was an extraordinary woman. I wish I could have met her, but am glad to learn a bit about her amazing legacy. There are at least 23,000 people who are grateful for her assistance at their births, and her mission will live on with the indigenous women who are studying midwifery by her scholarship program.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Feb 1 2019 10:29 pm

      I think Rhodanthe will live on in many more hearts. And that is a good thing.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Gilda Baxter / Feb 1 2019 7:11 pm

    A lovely tribute to such an amazing person. May she RIP

    Liked by 2 people

  23. a mindful traveler / Feb 1 2019 11:04 pm

    What an inspirational woman. I admire her for reaching out and assisting the indigenous community future midwives.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Feb 2 2019 9:40 am

      Rhodanthe was a remarkable woman. She was also passionate about supporting pregnant teenagers. Even when she was in her 90s, she would visit retail shops and ask them to buy a Baby Care book to donate to a pregnant high schooler. She’s have them inscribe a message inside the front cover.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. chattykerry / Feb 2 2019 7:07 am

    She sounds like the most wonderful woman who lived life so well. My condolences for your loss of a friend. K x

    Liked by 2 people

  25. dfolstad58 / Feb 2 2019 8:53 am

    I love your tribute to this wonderful lady. How special that she lived such a long healthy life. Thanks for sharing her inspiring story.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Feb 2 2019 9:41 am

      You are most welcome. I had to share Rhodanthe’s story so more people knew about her.

      Liked by 1 person

  26. Curt Mekemson / Feb 2 2019 10:45 am

    Sounds like a very special person, Peggy. –Curt

    Liked by 2 people

  27. efge63 / Feb 2 2019 3:26 pm

    Respect to her memory!!!! You are lucky to meet such a great woman!!!! I will post for her i promise you!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  28. thewonderer86 / Feb 2 2019 7:42 pm

    What a woman. And what a lovely piece to honour her.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Sande Olocho / Feb 3 2019 2:50 am

    She did her bit and left a mark that will endure. An awesome soul.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Feb 3 2019 9:33 am

      You’ve given a perfect description of Rhodanthe—she was ‘an awesome soul’.

      Liked by 1 person

  30. Forestwood / Feb 3 2019 1:58 pm

    No wonder she received the Honorary Doctorate and Order Medal. What an amazing lady. Someone who really made a difference in her life and was dedicated to her craft. The title of her book says it all! I wish someone had given me a copy when I had my kids.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Feb 3 2019 2:38 pm

      Give your kids a copy when they have kids. 🙂


      • Forestwood / Feb 3 2019 6:20 pm

        Will do if that ever happens

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Feb 3 2019 7:18 pm

        Yeah, mine are not going forth and multiplying. Have had to give books to nieces and nephews. Still waiting.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Forestwood / Feb 3 2019 9:42 pm

        I know they are procreating later in life, but one at least is commitment shy, another indecisive and the third still too young….not much chance for at least a decade I think….

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Feb 3 2019 10:43 pm

        At least you have some prospect. I think mine have truly decided.


  31. lulu / Feb 5 2019 12:36 am

    A lovely tribute to a woman with grit and a good heart.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. jeanleesworld / Feb 5 2019 2:17 pm

    What a woman! Wow. She is an amazing role model to share with girls today, not the plastic nonsense people that paste themselves on YouTube or Instagram. You’ve a woman of passion and integrity eager to help others to the point where money she could have made on her book is dedicated to assisting others. Thank you so much for sharing her with us. It sounds like she’s been a blessing in your life for years. xxxxxxxx

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Feb 5 2019 3:03 pm

      You are absolutely right, Jean. Rhodanthe has been a blessing in our lives for many years. Poor John and I were so touched on Sunday to be included in a just-family farewell gathering. There were only three of us (out of about 25) who weren’t related by blood somehow.

      Liked by 1 person

  33. Noellie / Feb 5 2019 11:59 pm

    What an amazing and generous life she led. To be so compassionate with a child and mother to give them a beautiful start together. Wonderful tribute.

    Liked by 2 people

  34. inesephoto / Feb 7 2019 10:42 pm

    Thank you for sharing a wonderful person who made the world a better place. I am so very sorry for your loss, Peggy. Rhodanthe has certainly been a blessing in the lives of those around her. May she continue to be present in hearts and memories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Feb 7 2019 10:54 pm

      She’ll definitely live on in many hearts and memories. Just today I bought a copy of her book to give to a young woman who is studying nursing. She’s also thinking of becoming a midwife and also hopes to have her own children.

      Liked by 1 person

      • inesephoto / Feb 8 2019 6:21 am

        It is so wonderful to hear in the times when human life has no value to many ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  35. Selina Stambi / Feb 8 2019 1:45 pm

    She sounds like an incredible lady. (And I love her name.) A beautiful tribute. Glad I popped in. RIP Rodanthe. xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Feb 8 2019 2:16 pm

      Thanks so much. Rhodanthe really was an incredible lady. I love her name too.


  36. Miriam / Feb 8 2019 4:39 pm

    Belated condolences Peggy. What a remarkable woman and a lovely tribute you’ve written her.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Phil Huston / Feb 9 2019 9:59 am

    Man…So what have I done for the world lately? Great story. It’s not over till it’s over and people who don’t roll over, ever…Amazing. Somehow I needed this one.

    Liked by 2 people

  38. Lisa Dorenfest / Feb 10 2019 8:41 pm

    A life well lived by one who benefited so many! What a story!

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Feb 10 2019 10:09 pm

      Yes, a life very well lived. Sadly her body was letting her down. Missed by many.

      Liked by 1 person

  39. Lynz Real Cooking / Feb 13 2019 9:29 am

    What an amazing person! Thanks for sharing with us!

    Liked by 1 person

  40. The Year I Touched My Toes / Feb 16 2019 9:02 am

    Hi Peggy, Thanks for sharing this story. Sounds like you were lucky to know her and that she was lucky to have you around, rather than catching a bus with her John, The reminder about strength and exercise in the story is a good. Louise

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Feb 16 2019 9:39 am

      Hi Louise, we were very lucky to know Rhodanthe. Her memorial service is tomorrow and people are coming from all over the country. We’re picking up Elizabeth (shown above with Rhodanthe) who is now 98. Exercise has served her well too.

      Liked by 1 person


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