By Janice O'Rourke, MPA, RD, IMMB Executive Director
My first memory of Betty Ann Countryman was when, during my interview for the Executive Director position at the Indiana Mothers’ Milk Bank, she asked me if I breastfed my children. I saw her then as a feisty older woman with a very strong belief in how children should be fed. It wasn’t until later, after taking the position, that I discovered just how strong that belief was.
Betty Ann was one of the founding Board members of the Indiana Mothers’ Milk Bank. She was a nurse, but not just a nurse. She was one of the most impressive women I had ever met. Betty Ann graduated from Harvard University (Radcliffe College, cum laude) and received her Master’s Degree in Nursing from the Yale University School of Nursing. She was a member of Mensa, of Alpha Chapter of the Nursing Honorary Society Sigma Theta Tau, of the Yale and Harvard Clubs of Indiana.
For fifty years Betty Ann devoted much of her professional life to the well-being of mothers and children. She was a founder of La Leche League of Indiana and a former chairperson of La Leche League International’s Board of Directors. In the 1970s she was a consultant to the World Health Organization, the Caribbean Food & Nutrition Institute, and the Public Health Department of Jamaica. With a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development in 1978, she established El Centro de Apoyo de Lactancia Materna in El Salvador, the first Latin-American center for support of breastfeeding and maternal/child health and nutrition. For over 30 years she wrote and spoke about the importance and value of breastfeeding in the U.S., Europe, and Latin America. She was a member of the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners, of Methodist Hospital’s Baby Friendly Task Force, and of the Board of Directors of the Indiana Mothers’ Milk Bank.
Betty Ann Countryman passed away yesterday at the age of 92. The Indiana Mothers’ Milk Bank has lost a supporter, mentor, and friend. She will be greatly missed.