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Breast-feeding advocate Froehlich dies at 93
By Eric Peterson | Daily Herald Staff

Edwina Froehlich

 

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Published: 6/9/2008 2:11 PM | Updated: 6/9/2008 5:12 PM

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Between co-founding an international organization promoting breast feeding and being the mother of an Illinois state representative, Edwina Froehlich had a long and strong influence on public affairs.

Mrs. Froehlich, lately of Inverness and one of the seven founders of La Leche League International, died at the age of 93 Sunday, having first suffered a stroke May 25.

Her son, state Rep. Paul Froehlich of Schaumburg, said she and her entire family felt blessed that she'd enjoyed good health for so long.

Edwina Froehlich was living in Franklin Park in 1956 when she and six friends began talking about ways to promote natural childbirth and breast feeding.

Her own inspiration was watching the childbirth experiences of her older sister, Pauline, who's still living at 96, Paul Froehlich said.

Mrs. Froehlich was shaken at mothers anesthetized for childbirth, fathers excluded from the delivery room and the lack of respect doctors showed for the nurses assisting them.

She was determined to make changes, first for herself and then for others.

"She became an advocate of natural childbirth and breast feeding," Paul Froehlich said. "There's very few people in my age group who can say their father was in the delivery room when they were born."

La Leche League, which now has chapters in 68 countries, started with very humble intentions among the founders, said the league's public relations associate Jane Crouse.

"Their original purpose, and each one of them will tell you this, was just to help their friends in the neighborhood," Crouse said.

But word slowly spread, as some of the founders began moving to other places and other women began coming to the original group for help.

The first chapter of the league outside the U.S. sprang up in Quebec as early as 1960, Crouse said.

The book, "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding," which Edwina Froehlich co-authored, was considered the definitive book on breast feeding when it was published in a bound edition in 1963. It since has sold more than 2 million copies.

Paul Froehlich said his interest in public service was undoubtedly influenced by the role his mother played in the growth of the league.

"The most obvious thing is that she was an advocate," he said. "She gave speeches. I grew up seeing that role model - a mom who was very active in her community and in the broader world."

Though some of the league's early challenges were overcome, its work and that of its surviving founders never stopped, Crouse said.

Ensuring breast feeding practices remain acceptable in the workplace and in public is a big part of the league's ongoing mission, she added.

Edwina Froehlich donated her body to science. Paul Froehlich said many friends have commented on the consistency of this with her lifelong generosity to others.

Though there won't be a wake or funeral, there will be a memorial service sometime in the weeks ahead, he said.