Celebrated author and midwife Jeannine Parvati Baker passed away on December 1, 2005, in Joseph, UT. She was 56 years old.
Ms. Parvati Baker had long served as a teacher and advocate of natural childbirth and therapies. She wrote hundreds of articles on health and wellness, as well as several books. Ms. Parvati Baker further promoted gentle birth practices, non-circumcision, and natural therapies through her many presentations at conferences throughout the world.
"She was one of the first herbalist teachers at those early herb conferences back in the early seventies, and her teachings live on through the thousands of people who studied with her," said Rosemary Gladstar, founder of United Plant Savers, author of several books on herbs, and long-time friend of Ms. Parvati Baker (e-mail, April 10, 2006). "She had a huge influence on women, conscious conception, and the home birth movement. That was her specialty."
Ms. Parvati Baker was born in Los Angeles, CA, on June 1, 1949. The story of her own hospital birth, described by her parents as traumatic, inspired her initial interest in birth psychology, as well as her life-long advocacy of natural and gentle childbirth practices. She began studying such topics at San Francisco State University, ultimately earning both her bachelor's of arts and master's degrees in psychology at that institution. Her personal birth history, as well as her experiences studying with the famous Indian guru Baba Hari Dass, motivated her to write Prenatal Yoga and Natural Childbirth in 1974, which was the first book on prenatal yoga in the West. She published her second book, Hygieia: A Woman's Herbal, in 1979, which served as her master's thesis. Ms. Parvati Baker later co-authored a third book, Conscious Conception: Elemental Journey through the Labyrinth of Sexuality, with Frederick Baker and Tamara Slayton in 1986.
Ms. Parvati Baker actively worked as a midwife and yoga instructor for many years, then taught such skills through both an informal correspondence course on midwifery and an apprenticeship program. She started the correspondence course—called Hygieia College—in 1980. By late 2001, there were approximately 1,000 students from around the world enrolled in the course.
According to Kathi Keville, director of the American Herb Association and author of several books on herbs and aromatherapy, "Jeannine Parvati was a midwife not only for all the babies she brought into this world, but of the spirit. She encouraged everyone—those who attended her workshops, read her books, or were her friends—to develop deeper and more honest relationships with their families, friends, the earth, and most importantly, with themselves.
"One of her skills was as a wordsmith, cleverly pointing out how the very words we choose, personally and as a society, to express ourselves, reveal much about one's true nature," Keville continued. "She articulated this in her poetry and books on healing. Our herbal community has lost a guiding light. My sadness at her passing is eased knowing how many lives she touched, and will continue to touch, through her work" (e-mail, April 27, 2006).
Gladstar echoed such sentiments of Ms. Parvati Baker's speaking powers and influence. "Whenever, wherever Jeannine spoke, her word magic transformed the people listening to her," Gladstar explained. "She wrote and spoke in poetry, but it wasn't always easy to listen. She was fierce and tough at times, like the desert she lived in. And she fought relentlessly for those things she believed in, with her words and her writings. I say, thank the goddess, for the world has changed a little for the better because of her."
Jeannine Parvati Baker is survived by her mother, sister, 6 children, and 1 grandchild.
Jeannine Parvati Baker. Birthkeeper Web site. Available at: http://www.birthkeeper.com/Obituary.html. Accessed: January 24, 2006.