Born in India, Nurse-midwife Asoka Roy was trained initially in New Delhi, did a master’s at degree at the All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health in Calcutta, and obtained a midwife’s teaching certificate from the Royal College of Midwives. She later did further midwifery training in Sweden. During her career as a midwife she delivered more than 5000 babies.
During the period of partition between India and Pakistan she made trips to war-torn villages, risking her life to see her midwives to safety and to deliver babies. After partition Roy became general secretary of the Trained Nurses’ Association of India, TNAI, the second Indian to hold this post (after many Britons); she was the first Indian editor of the TNAI Nursing Journal of India. She worked also as a midwifery tutor in Britain.
In 1955 Roy emigrated to the United States, where she helped establish midwifery as a profession. She obtained a licence as a nurse-midwife in New York and became the first director of the Beth Israel Medical Center’s midwifery program. She also taught at Yale University. She was made a fellow of the American College of Nurse-Midwives.
The New York Times in its obituary of Roy called her a “pioneer in nurse-midwifery.” Awards were named in her honour after her death.