About Call the Midwife

Call the Midwife is based on the autobiographical novels by Jennifer Worth (nee Lee) Call the Midwife, Shadows of the Workhouse and Farewell to The East End. We look at the career of the writer and go behind the scenes of the hit series.

The Midwives

The Midwives

The real midwife

After a spell as a secretary, Jennifer Worth trained as a nurse at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading, before relocating to London to become a midwife at the London Hospital in Whitechapel, alongside the Sisters of St John the Divine.

She then worked as a ward sister at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital in Bloomsbury and the Marie Curie Hospital in Hampstead. She retired from nursing in 1973 to study and perform music. After a successful time touring Europe she then turned her hand to writing, with Call the Midwife released in 2002 (although not a bestseller until 2009). A fourth book, In the Midst of Life, published in 2010, chronicled her time caring for the terminally ill.

Worth died in May 2011, after being diagnosed with cancer early that year. She never witnessed the huge success the television adaptation of her novels garnered. She had seen and approved early draughts of the scripts, however.

Expert help

For the novel, Worth enlisted the help of midwife Terri Coates to be her clinical Editor and advisor. It’s a role Coates now fulfills on the series. You can read about her work on the BBC TV blog.

Call the writer

The writer and co-producer of Call the Midwife is Heidi Thomas. Heidi has also worked on Ballet Shoes, I Capture the Castle, Cranford and the revival of Upstairs Downstairs. She is married to Stephen McGann – who plays Doctor Turner in Call the Midwife.

Surprise hit

Helen George, who plays Trixie reveals that the show’s success wasn’t a forgone conclusion. Speaking to the Radio Times, she said “It was never supposed to be a success. People said ‘who will watch this?’ Women who are pregnant won’t watch it because it’s too gritty and men won’t want to watch it. That was the consensus.” Now it’s shown worldwide and is a huge hit – especially in the US, hungry for more historical drama after the success of Downton Abbey.

Adventures in Time and Space

The success of Call the Midwife has led to its star Jessica Raine being cast in not one but two Doctor Who productions. She played the psychic Emma Grayling in the 2013 episode Hide and she has also filmed An Adventure in Time and Space, a drama about the origins of the series. Raine plays Verity Lambert, Doctor Who’s first Producer.