Women’s Deaths Remembered: Picking up the Threads, Remaking the Fabric of Care.


A multi-media exhibition, centred on a hand-knitted quilt is being launched on 25th November, 2015, in St. Laurence’s DIT Grangegorman, 6-9pm.

The exhibition commemorates the lives of the women who have died in our maternity services. In recent years, eight women had inquests, all of which ended in verdicts of death by medical misadventure.

Following Tania McCabe’s death, there was a major HSE investigation and a report in 2008. Despite recommendations to improve maternity care substantially, these were not acted upon, and the deaths of these other women occurred as the result of continuing lapses in care.

The exhibit is being held to honour the lives of these women. We also aim to call attention to the need for a change in the law so that there is an automatic inquest for every woman who dies in our maternity services. The exhibition thus honours women who died and who were not granted an inquest, women like Antoinette Pepper, who died in St. Vincent’s Hospital from sepsis in 1988, having been transferred from the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, and whose family were repeatedly turned down in their request to have Antoinette’s death investigated. The exhibit also honours the women who died and whose names we do not know, who are recorded only as statistics in annual clinical reports from our maternity units and hospitals.

There are countries in the EU who have far better maternal health outcomes than we have. We need greater accountability, a truly outstanding system of audit and genuine open disclosure. It is vital to have automatic inquests for all maternal deaths to help improve our maternity services.

Over 150 women, many of them midwives and midwifery students, from Donegal to Clare to Kilkenny to Wexford, and from England, Scotland and Australia, have knitted pieces for the quilt.

As organisers of the project, we call ourselves ‘The Elephant Collective.’

We chose this name because when an elephant gives birth, the rest of the herd surround her to protect her and the new calf.

We liked that symbol.

We have written to representatives of all the families of the women about the project, and several of the men who lost their wives and partners are involved directly, including Abiola Adesina, widower of Bimbo Onanuga, Michael Kivlehan, widower of Dhara Kivlehan, and Sean Rowlette, widower of Sally Rowlette. Our youngest knitter is 11 years old and our oldest is 87.

Some of the groups involved are



Clare Birth Choice

Community Midwives Association


Donegal Women’s Centre

Doula Association of Ireland

Gentle Birth Ireland

Home Birth Association of Ireland

Kilkenny Library Knitting Circle

Letterkenny Breastfeeding Support Group

Midwifery students, Trinity College Dublin

Neighbourhood Midwives

St. Johnstone Breastfeeding Support Group

Organising Members of the Elephant Collective

Fatimah Alaya

Doreen Fitzmaurice

Anne-Marie Green

Kate Harris

Julika Hudson

Martina Hynan

Caroline Kiernan

Ann Maxwell

Mary Moynihan

Jo Murphy-Lawless

Bridget Sheeran

Mary Smyth

For further information, contact jlawless@tcd.ie or Kate Harris at kateni77@gmail.com



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