Women in childbirth have been attended for millennia by other women and it is from this tradition that the profession of midwifery was born. Midwifery has evolved differently in various countries. In many countries, midwifery was bound to nursing at some point in history in a move that has often limited the opportunities for midwifery as an autonomous and unique profession. In this coupling, midwifery became the addendum to nursing. In many countries in regulation there are “Boards of Nursing and Midwifery”, in education, “Schools of Nursing and Midwifery”; in leadership “Directors of Nursing and Midwifery” in government, the “Chief Nurse and Midwife”. It seems to be no accident that it is always “nursing and midwifery”, rather than “midwifery and nursing”. This arrangement both reflects and reinforces inequities in professional autonomy and as we argue in this Editorial, has significant implications for midwives, midwifery, maternity services and childbearing women.