On 30th April 1869 Hungarian artist Philip de László was born in Budapest. In the early 20th century de László became one of the most popular portraitists in Europe. This month, we take a closer look at de László's portrait of midwifery and anaesthetics campaigner Lucy Baldwin, recently acquired by the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art with support from the Speaker's Art Fund.
This painting by Philip de László shows Lucy Baldwin, the prominent campaigner for women’s access to pain relief during childbirth. The portrait was painted for the benefit of her anaesthetics campaign and shows her as a leader of a national cause.
This portrait was executed in late 1935 and finally completed in January 1936. At this time, de László was a world famous society portraitist who had painted royalty alongside cultural and political figures. Unusually, de László did not take the portrait on as a commission, rather he painted it in support of Lucy Baldwin’s Safer Motherhood Campaign.
Lucy Baldwin [née Ridsdale], wife of Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, joined the leadership of the National Birthday Trust Fund in 1928 – an organisation dedicated to the care of mothers and the improvement and extension of pain relief during childbirth. As a leading campaigner and figurehead for the National Birthday Trust Fund she promoted these causes through public speeches and radio broadcasts which greatly advanced public awareness of these issues. Her greatest contribution to the development of natal care was her advocacy of women’s access to anaesthetics during childbirth, regardless of income or background. In 1929 she founded the Anaesthetics Fund which pioneered development into accessible and transportable pain relief in the form of capsules and gas-and-air machines. During her campaigns she spoke passionately about the experiences of mothers, in a speech at Mansion House in December 1929: “Do you realise that our women daily, hourly, are “going over the top”? Because when a woman is going to have a child it is like going into battle - she never knows[…]whether she will come out of it alive or not.”
In recognition of her campaign in 1959 the British Oxygen company, named their gas-and-air anaesthetic machine ‘The Lady Baldwin Apparatus’.
In addition to her role in the National Birthday Trust Fund and Anaesthetics Fund, was instrumental in the development of the Midwives Bill (1936). Lucy Baldwin sat on the newly established Joint Council of Midwifery which oversaw the creation of the Bill, and was instrumental in the passing of the Midwives Act, 1936. Beyond the passing of the Act, the Joint Council of Midwifery continued to campaign for improvement to natal care and conducted valuable research into infant and mother mortality.
Lucy Baldwin dedicated years to the advancement of women’s care in childbirth, which had a lasting effect on legislation, public attitudes, and medical research.
Image: Lucy Baldwin by Philip de Laszlo
Credit: Norman Mays Studio © de László Foundation
Find out more about the artworks of Philip de László at The de László Archive Trust online.