NPT’s Appraisal Day 2017 Brings Mix of Treasures and Stories

NPT’s 2017 Fine Arts and Antiques Appraisal Day was another success. Held at The Factory at Franklin on June 24, the event raised more than $30,000 to support NPT’s engaging and educational programming. More than 21 appraisers from around the region provided attendees with verbal assessments of a variety of items and three NPT viewers purchased in-home appraisals during televised pledge specials leading up to the event.

There was the usual combination of pleasant and disappointing news about the items brought in for assessment. For example, one woman learned an intriguing basket she’d purchased for $5 at a yard sale is worth…about that. On the other hand, an exquisite platinum ring received from her mother was valued at $6,000. The ring dates from between 1900 and 1925 and has a 1- to 1.10-carat diamond in a miner’s cut.

A young family brought a painting of a goblet by Morris Graves that was given to the husband’s grandmother by the artist in the 1950s (her name is written in the artist’s hand on the back). Graves was a Pacific Northwest painter known for his depictions of animals and “supernaturally radiant flowers,” according to his obituary by New York Times art critic Holland Carter. Graves’ career got an early boost when he was included in a 1948 exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. After world travels and brushes with the powerful – Prime Minster Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi; the Duke and Duchess of Windsor – Graves returned to the West Coast and became somewhat of a recluse. His former home, studio and gardens are now a secluded artist retreat nestled within 150 acres of Northern California rain forest.

Marcey Ramos of Phoenix Collaborations (Hermitage) estimated the family’s small painting to be worth between $4,000 and $6,000, based on the few comparable Graves pieces that had come to auction; a larger painting sold for $17,000. This one, still in its original mid-century mounting, will be displayed in the family’s home.

Once again, Appraisal Day attendees were often as interesting as their treasures. A retired CIA employee, for example, talked of traveling to Southeast Asia in the early 1970s for her first post, her young daughter in tow.

(L to R:) Yvonne Smith with Stephen and Elizabeth Smith at Appraisal Day 2017.

Stephen and Elizabeth Smith celebrated 39 years of marriage – yes, to each other, Elizabeth quipped – by attending Appraisal Day. “After 38 years, it’s been there, done that,” Elizabeth said, so she was looking for something special to mark the 39th. The Smiths and their daughter brought a trolley full of items for appraisal, among them Mr. Smith’s Carnegie Medal for heroism and its accompanying documentation, estimated to be worth between $2,500 and $3,500. “We love archival stuff; especially love letters and war letters,” said Wray Williams of Case Antiques Inc., Auctions & Appraisals (Knoxville).

Meanwhile, a sword believed to be a circa-1862 Civil War relic was harder to appraise; it was deemed to be either in miraculously preserved specimen, or a modern replica. Further tests of the metal are required to confirm its authenticity, but the Smiths were happy with its sentimental value and the fascinating, transatlantic backstory explaining its mint condition. The Murfreesboro couple was also happy to pose for their first anniversary photograph in more than 20 years.

Kevin Crane Becomes NPT’s President & CEO; McElroy, Tidwell, Pedigo & Hence Promoted

Kevin Crane has assumed his duties as President and CEO of NPT. Crane joined NPT as Director of Technology in May 2000, and was promoted to Vice President of Content and Technology in 2007. He was recently elected by NPT’s board to succeed Beth Curley, who is now President Emerita.

Crane has more than 30 years of experience in public television and prior to NPT held a variety of positions with the WGBH Educational Foundation. At NPT, he has played a key role in the development of original NPT series such as Aging Matters, Children’s Health Crisis, Tennessee Civil War 150 and the American Graduate project. In addition, he has overseen all of NPT’s broadcast and IT technology during a period of massive technological changes including the transition from analog to digital broadcast technology.

“I’m excited to build on NPT’s success in creating and delivering meaningful content that’s rooted in the Middle Tennessee community,” Crane said. “As technology continues to evolve, NPT will remain committed to making this content available across all digital platforms to better serve our community.”

Four other staff members also received recent promotions:

Kathy McElroy was promoted to Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. McElroy has been with NPT for nine years. In her new role, she will work to make sure NPT maintains its stellar reputation and continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of the Middle Tennessee community we serve.

Daniel Tidwell was promoted to Senior Vice President of Development and Marketing. In addition to fundraising and marketing, he will now oversee NPT’s digital efforts, focusing on branding and overseeing community engagement efforts. Tidwell has been at NPT since January 2003.

Will Pedigo was promoted to Executive Producer. His new duties include overseeing local production and providing editorial assistance to NPT’s production team. In Pedigo’s former role as producer/director at NPT, he produced documentaries in NPT’s Next Door Neighbors, Children’s Health Crisis and Aging Matters original documentary series. He also produced spots for the Veterans Coming Home digital series and occasional segments for NPT’s Tennessee Crossroads.

Suzy Hence was promoted to Senior Editor. While continuing to edit Volunteer Gardener and other NPT productions, she will now be responsible for media management and establishing guidelines for outputting and archiving projects. Hence has edited documentaries in every NPT series during her 11 years at NPT including Aging Matters: Caregiving, Next Door Neighbors: Somali, and Children’s Health Crisis: Infant Mortality, for which she received Midsouth Regional Emmys.

Beth Curley Leaves NPT (But Stays Close)

Beth Curley at the Tennessee Woman Suffrage Monument in Nashville’s Centennial Park


By Beth Curley
President Emerita, NPT

My 18 years at NPT have truly been the highlight of my 45-year career in public television. I am so proud of the station that we’ve built for the entire Nashville community.

The major programs and services we’ve developed ‒ including Aging Matters, Next Door Neighbors, Children’s Health Crisis and Tennessee Civil War 150 ‒ embody the ideals that led me into public television in the first place. These programs are the kind of work that I hoped to do when I began my career, and really represent the very best of what public television can and should aspire to. What makes this work so meaningful is that is it’s rooted in the experiences and needs of you, our viewers. Today NPT is an integral part of the educational, cultural and civic life of Nashville, and that’s exactly what a public television station should always strive to be—dedicated to meeting the needs of an ever-evolving community.

Although I am retiring, it’s impossible for me to just fade away! I will continue to consult on a variety of strategic issues and will develop and raise funds for a new NPT documentary on the history of Women’s Suffrage in Tennessee, which is planned for release nationally in 2020 – the centennial of the passage of the 19th Amendment. This documentary will be part of NPT’s ongoing Citizenship Project, a series examining how different groups have fought for, obtained and maintained the rights and access we commonly associate with American citizenship.

The suffrage documentary is very personal to me, and it is more important than ever for all of us to be aware of this history. If you go to the Tennessee Woman Suffrage Monument in Nashville’s Centennial Park, you’ll see my grandmother’s name, Mary Ann McNamara, inscribed on the wall adjacent to the statue. Mary Ann was an Irish immigrant who came to the United States in the early 1900s. As an immigrant and a woman, she did not have the opportunity to vote until well into her adult life, even though she worked tirelessly to make life better for her family. I owe her a debt of gratitude for making my work at NPT possible.

I am excited about all such personal stories that will be told in the Tennessee Women’s Suffrage documentary. I’m sure it will be one of many significant projects undertaken by NPT in the future. NPT has been all encompassing for me, and while it’s difficult to leave, I’m pleased to leave the station in great hands.

I couldn’t be happier that Kevin Crane will take over the reins as President and CEO of NPT. We have worked together for 30 years and he is the perfect choice to lead NPT into a complicated technical future. Kevin will be ably assisted by a first-rate staff and by the same executive team that has worked together for a least a decade. Together the NPT team is creative, committed, energetic and truly believes in the potential for public television to bring positive change to Nashville.

Your public station is in good hands . I will be watching – on air and online – and I’ll remain very active behind the scenes.

Thank you for all you have given me – my life is personally enriched.

Beth Curley


Nonstop Children’s Programming on NPT3 PBS Kids!

Nonstop children’s programming is coming to NPT and it’s all free! NPT3 PBS Kids, our third broadcast channel, will launch Friday, June 30, 2017 and will be dedicated to providing quality educational programming from PBS Kids. The channel will be available over-the-air at 8.3 immediately and on Comcast 242 as of July 27, 2017. To access 8.3 via antenna, rescan your channels. The program feed is also available for streaming via online platforms at

We’re hosting a kick-off party for children and families on Friday, July 7, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Casa Azafrán (2195 Nolensville Pike, Nashville 37211). The public is invited to attend the event for games, crafts, refreshments and an appearance by PBS Kids character Super Why! Speakers will include Kevin Crane, President & CEO of NPT and Denine Torr, Director of Community Initiatives, The Dollar General Literacy Foundation.

“NPT has been an integral part of the Middle Tennessee community for more than 50 years, delivering content and services that parents trust and that move the needle in early learning,” said NPT’s Kevin Crane. “We are excited to build on the work we do every day for families by adding these new 24/7 services to our offerings, ensuring that our proven educational content is accessible anytime and anywhere to all kids – especially those who need it the most.”

With its 24/7 educational programming, NPT3 PBS KIDS will ensure that high-quality content is available to all children and caregivers on a platform and at a time that works for them, including primetime, weekends and other out-of-school times. Decades of research confirms that PBS KIDS media content helps children acquire early literacy, math and social-emotional skills, critical that enable them to find success in school and life, while also helping parents increase their own engagement in their children’s learning.

NPT3 PBS Kids will also include “PBS Kids Family Night,” weekly family viewing events featuring movie specials or themed programming every Friday from 7 to 9 p.m., and repeating on Saturday and Sunday evenings. “Family Night” will kick off with popular movie favorites such as Odd Squad: The Movie, Splash and Bubbles: One Big Ocean and Sesame Street: The Cookie Thief, and will include world premiere movie events such as Wild Kratts Alaska: Hero’s Journey in July, Ready Jet Go!: Return to Bortron 7 in August, and Arthur and the Haunted Treehouse in October.

NPT3 PBS Kids will build on NPT’s reach and impact in the community, where it provides essential services for kids, parents and teachers. These include NPT’s Emmy-winning original series Children’s Health Crisis and ArtQuest, as well as the station’s ongoing family literacy workshops, and Mobile Learning Lab activities focusing on literary, math and science for children ages 3 to 8.

Kids is being made possible through the generous support of


Summer Series on NPT Include Mysteries and ‘The Great British Baking Show’

Favorite characters and series return for the summer season on NPT, including the much-anticipated Prime Suspect: Tennison on Masterpiece and Grantchester on Masterpiece. In addition to mysteries and Sunday night dramas, there’s mystery and drama on The Great British Baking Show, back for a fourth season.


Sam Reid as DI Bradfield, Stefanie Martini as Jane Tennison and Blake Harrison as DS Gibbs in Prime Suspect: Tennison. Credit: Courtesy of ITV Studios and NoHo Film & Television for ITV and MASTERPIECE

Prime Suspect: Tennison, the three-part prequel to the popular PBS Mystery series starring Helen Mirren, premieres Sunday, June 25, at 9 p.m. This new series retains the dark feel of the original with a nod to the gritty disillusionment of 1970s London as it chronicles Jane’s experience as a young policewoman coping with blatant sexism at work while rebelling against her family’s expectations. Stefani Martini stars as the determined young copper and Alun Armstrong portrays a criminal kingpin in a story based on a book by Prime Suspect originator Lynda La Plante.

Grantchester on Masterpiece airs Sundays at 8 p.m. through July 30. Red-haired, jazz-loving vicar Sidney Chambers (James Norton) and world-wise Inspector Geordie Keating (Robson Green) continue their crime-solving bromance in the third season. Click here to get up to speed on the storyline. The previous two seasons are also available for streaming on NPT Passport.



War and peacetime

My Mother and Other Strangers on Masterpiece airs Sundays at 7 p.m. through July 16. Though a drama about the interaction of a large military force and a small World War II home front community may seem well-trodden premise, this series has a twist as it is set in Northern Ireland. At the center of the story is Englishwoman Rose Coyne (Hattie Morahan), who is raising two daughters and a son with her Northern Irish husband. Her life is upended by the war and the arrival of a U.S. Army Air Force base and its 4,000 serving men and women.



Fans of Downton Abbey will want to give Australian drama A Place to Call Home a try. The series premieres on NPT Saturdays at 8 and 9:15 p.m. beginning June 24 and revolves around Sarah Adams (Marta Dusseldorp), a nurse who returns to her native Australia full of secrets from her wartime experiences.


Icing on the cake

“Great British Baking Show” judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, with hosts Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc. Credit: Courtesy of Mark Bourdillon, © Love Productions

Cooking competition shows are all over the menu and the television schedule, but none come close to the class and panache of The Great British Baking Show. Maybe it’s the splendid spectrum of British accents, Mary Berry’s impeccable glamour, and the hosts’ groan-inducing puns that make the show so compelling. This season is certainly no mere confection, the challenges (30 total) are difficult, and deflated soufflés and egos are sure to follow. Season 4 airs Fridays at 8 p.m. through Aug. 4; Masterclass episodes will air some weeks (check our programming schedule for details). If you crave more, stream the previous three previous seasons, the masterclasses, and all of Season 4 on your favorite devices via NPT Passport.

NPT’s ‘Cheekwood: A Masterpiece by Man & Nature’ Premieres Thursday, June 22

Cheekwood reopened last week following renovations to return the house and gardens to their original splendor. NPT’s original documentary, Cheekwood: A Masterpiece by Man & Nature, ventures behind the scenes for an in-depth look at the mansion and grounds. The 30-minute program premieres Thursday, June 22, at 8 p.m., and includes sweeping aerial views of the estate; original sketches by Cheekwood’s architect, Bryant Fleming; and footage of the Cheek family’s 1920s tours of Europe.



Cheekwood was built between 1929 to 1932 by Leslie and Mabel Cheek, as a house designed to look old though it featured innovative engineering. Today the estate survives as one of the few complete examples of the American Country Place Era, a magnificent blend of architecture, landscape and interior design. Cheekwood: A Masterpiece by Man & Nature illuminates the estate’s genesis in European aspirations that resulted in a uniquely American architectural movement.

The documentary also analyzes the inspired aesthetic of Bryant Fleming, an architect who specialized in creating environments that seamlessly blended architecture and nature.

“Even though there were changes that had happened to accommodate the new uses, the seven-acre core of that property was as the Cheeks and Fleming had imagined it,” Charles A. Birnbaum, President and CEO of The Cultural Landscape Foundation, says in the documentary. “We should never take that for granted, because it is a rare place where house and garden still survive today of that era where you can understand what it might have been like to live during that time.”

Others appearing in the film are Jane MacLeod, Cheekwood’s President & CEO; Leslie Jones, Cheekwood’s Senior Vice President of Museum Affairs & Curator of Decorative Arts; architectural historian Hugh Howard; Carroll Van West, director of MTSU’s Center for Historic Preservation; Carole Bucy, Davidson County Historian and Professor of History, Volunteer State Community College; and author Gayle Knight (Bryant Fleming, Landscape Architect: Residential Designs, 1905-1935).

Additional broadcast times for Cheekwood: A Masterpiece by Man & Nature are below; the documentary will also be available for online viewing on our website,

  • Monday, June 26, at 8 a.m. on NPT2
  • Tuesday, June 27, at 1 p.m. on NPT2
  • Saturday, July 22, at 5 p.m. on NPT2
  • Sunday, July 23, at 1 p.m. on NPT2


Cheekwood: A Masterpiece by Man & Nature was produced by filmmaker Mary Makley, whose most recent documentary for NPT was Aging Matters: Living with Alzheimer’s & Dementia. Makley was also executive producer and producer of NPT’s award-winning Children’s Health Crisis documentary series.

NPT’s Cheekwood: A Masterpiece by Man & Nature is made possible by the generous support of Mrs. Lillian ‘Tooty’ Bradford; Carlene Lebous and Harris Haston; Tricia and William Hastings; and Linde and Blair Wilson.

NPT’s Kids Programming Summer Schedule; 24-Hour Kids Channel Coming Soon

Nature Cat: Ocean Commotion

Good news for the younger set! NPT’s summer lineup of children’s programming includes back-to-back episodes of favorites like Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Splash and Bubbles, Wild Kratts and Odd Squad. There will also be new episodes and adventures throughout the summer. Please see our complete kids programming below.



If some of your household’s favorite shows have gone missing, don’t worry: many of them are streaming online via the free PBS Kids 24/7 Channel available at

NPT is also pleased to announce that beginning this summer we will offer the 24-hour PBS Kids Channel on-air. NPT3, our third broadcast channel, is being made possible through the generous support of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and The Frist Foundation. More details and a launch date are coming soon – stay tuned!

Here’s our updated weekday schedule of children’s programs:

6:00     Ready Jet Go!

6:30     Wild Kratts

7:00     Thomas & Friends

7:30     Curious George

8:00     Curious George

8:30     Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

9:00     Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

9:30     Splash and Bubbles

10:00   Splash and Bubbles

10:30   Sesame Street

11:00   Sesame Street

11:30   Super Why!

12:00   pm Peg + Cat

12:30   Dinosaur Train

1:00     Ready Jet Go!

1:30     Bob the Builder

2:00     Nature Cat

2:30     Wild Kratts

3:00     Wild Kratts

3:30     Odd Squad

4:00     Odd Squad

4:30     Arthur

5:00     Arthur

5:30     Martha Speaks

There are also changes coming to our weekend schedule of children’s programs. As of June 24, those lineups will be:


5:00     am Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood

5:30     Thomas & Friends

6:00     Bob the Builder

6:30     Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

7:00     Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

7:30     Splash and Bubbles

8:00     Curious George

8:30     Nature Cat


5:00     am Sid the Science Kid

5:30     Cyberchase

6:00     Sesame Street

6:30     Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

7:00     Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

7:30     Cat in the Hat

8:00     Curious George

8:30     Nature Cat


Please find our complete programming schedule at

NPT’s Appraisal Day 2017 is June 24 at the Factory at Franklin

NPT’s Appraisal Day 2017 is coming up Saturday, June 24, at the Factory at Franklin. At the event, attendees may have up to three or up to six items appraised by regional experts. See what the Appraisal Day experience is like on Monday, June 5, when Robin Sinclair and Sarah Campbell Drury, two of our Appraisal Day experts, will be live in studio during our 7 p.m. broadcast of Antiques Roadshow.

Appraisal Day will include 22 appraisers ‒ topping last year’s record number ‒ on hand to offer verbal appraisals of your treasures. Acceptable items for assessment include antiques, books, documents, jewelry, militaria, pop culture items, textiles and toys.

Appraisal Day 2016

Tickets are $75 for up to three items; $150 for up to six items and are available for either the morning (9-11 a.m.) or afternoon (1-4 p.m.) session. Tickets are available at Attendees may bring items on their own or team up with friends to reach the three- or six-item total. All proceeds from Appraisal Day directly support NPT’s entertaining and educational programming for the entire Middle Tennessee community.

NPT’s Appraisal Day is a family-friendly event that brings together people of many generations to learn about their forebears as they learn about their treasures. At last year’s event, a Mt. Juliet woman learned that paintings by her grandfather, Texas landscape artist Everett Spruce, had monetary as well as sentimental value. Each painting was assessed at between $6,000 and $16,000. Some treasures are lucky finds rather than family heirlooms, such as the 19th-century Polynesian carving a couple purchased for $20 and used as part of the family’s Tiki-style pool décor. They gained new appreciation for the sculpture after it was assessed at $5,000 to $8,000.

Appraisers expected to attend Appraisal Day 2017:

  • David Case | Case Antiques Inc., Auctions & Appraisals | Knoxville
  • John Case | Case Antiques Inc., Auctions & Appraisals | Knoxville
  • Mary Jo Case | Case Antiques Inc., Auctions & Appraisals | Knoxville
  • Charlie Clements | Clements Antiques | Chattanooga
  • Chas Clements | Clements Antiques | Chattanooga
  • Mike Cotter | Back in Time Rare Books/Back in Time Appraisals | Jacksonville, FL
  • Mel Covington |Berenice Denton Estate Sales & Appraisals | Nashville
  • Bob Craig | Knoxville Gold Buyers | Knoxville
  • Berenice Denton |Berenice Denton Estate Sales & Appraisals | Nashville
  • Len De Rohan | Case Antiques Inc., Auctions & Appraisals | Knoxville
  • Sarah Campbell Drury | Case Antiques Inc., Auctions & Appraisals | Nashville
  • Julie Walton Garland | Walton’s Antique Jewelry | Franklin
  • Michael Higgins | Antique Indian Art | Tucson, Ariz.
  • Sam Holden | Pickle Road Appraisers | Nashville
  • Selma Paul | Selma Paul Appraisal & Liquidations Services |Atlanta
  • Felix Perry | Corduroy House Antiques | Nashville
  • Marcey Ramos | Phoenix Collaborations | Hermitage
  • (Robin) Sinclair, Ph.D. | Sinclair Appraisals | Nashville
  • Joe Spann | Gruhn Guitars | Nashville
  • J.T. Thompson | Lotz House | Franklin
  • Mike Walton | Walton’s Antique Jewelry | Franklin
  • Wray Williams | Case Antiques Inc., Auctions & Appraisals | Nashville


For more information about Appraisal Day, including acceptable items and ticketing options, please click here.

J.T. Thompson of Lotz House Civil War Museum in Franklin at the 2016 Appraisal Day

Please note: Firearms must be unloaded and disarmed. Please no arrowheads, burial material, Pre-Columbian items, ammunition or items that cannot be easily transported by one person. For furniture, clear and in-focus photographs of large items are acceptable and should include one showing the size or scale of the item and one offering an overall view. Additional photographs should show close-ups of details such as signatures or maker’s marks, the inside of a drawer, and/or any damaged areas, etc.

NPT’s ‘Next Door Neighbors: Belonging’ Premieres Tuesday, May 30

Belonging, the 10th documentary in NPT’s Next Door Neighbors series, premieres Tuesday, May 30, at 9:30 p.m. In this edition of Next Door Neighbors, we examine the lives of several Middle Tennesseans who grapple with what it means to belong, to be foreign-born and still fit into American culture. How do experiences of acceptance and rejection shape our worldview and define our quality of life? From Syrian Americans living in Murfreesboro to a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient originally from Mexico, Belonging shares the experiences of immigrants in a world where rules and attitudes are constantly changing.



The first story is that of Mazen Alkhiyami, who came to Middle Tennessee four decades ago as a college student and has made his home here. “I am proud to be Syrian and Muslim and American at the same time,” Alkhiyami says in the documentary. “I woke up to this world in this country, I came here when I was 18. My kids are from here. I’m from here. I plan to be here for the rest my life.”

Syrian immigrant Abdou Kattih is founder and president of Murfreesboro Muslim Youth, a community service organization. He came to the U.S. to join his parents in Chattanooga, then moved to Middle Tennessee to work as a pharmacist. His story is among those told in the second segment of Belonging.

Beginning in 2011, the civil war in Syria led to a refugee crisis with civilians fleeing the fight between government forces, various rebel factions and ISIS fighters. By the end of 2016, there were nearly 5 million registered Syrian refugees, 18,000 of whom were resettled in the U.S., with fewer than 400 coming to Tennessee. “No Syrian is unaffected by this conflict, but I wanted to tell the story through a different lens,” said Belonging’s producer Shawn Anfinson.

Finally, Karla is a woman in her mid-20s who grew up much as any American child would. After being brought to the U.S. from Mexico as a child, she attended kindergarten in Nashville and went through the Metro Nashville public school system. Karla grew up with friends who were all Nashville-born. “They were all American; so I felt like I was one of them,” Karla says in Belonging. It was only when she began applying to colleges that she learned she was an undocumented immigrant. She now finds herself in a precarious situation despite 2012’s DACA policy.

NPT’s Next Door Neighbors: Belonging is made possible by the generous support of The Nissan Foundation.

Additional broadcast times for Next Door Neighbors: Belonging are below; the documentary will also be available for online viewing at

  • Thursday, June 1, at 9:30 a.m. on NPT2
  • Friday, June 2, at 2:30 p.m. on NPT2

For our full programming schedule, please go to

‘Call the Midwife’ Recap: Season 6, Episode 8

Olivia Darnley as Wilma Goddens, Matthew Wilson as Trevor Goddens. Credit: Courtesy of Neal Street Productions 2016

Call the Midwife is back for a sixth season Sundays at 7 p.m., through May 21. Read the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing guest blog each Monday morning for historical and contemporary context about the previous night’s episode. SPOILER ALERT: Some posts may contain spoilers.

By Bethany Domzal Sanders
Vanderbilt University School of Nursing

Many of us watching the Season 6 finale of Call the Midwife were not alive during a time when birth control was either unavailable, taboo or restricted to married women. These days advertisements for intrauterine systems appear in women’s and parenting magazines and Planned Parenthood is frequently mentioned in the press. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in 2014, more than 60 percent of American women between the ages of 15 and 44 used some form of birth control. So it may be hard to appreciate what women like this episode’s Wilma Goddens (Olivia Darnley) felt when they received their first pack of oral contraceptive pills.

Birth control pills first became available in the United States in 1961, but only to married women. The first marketed birth control pill contained 75 micrograms of synthetic estrogen and 10 milligrams of synthetic progestin. Not long after the introduction of the pill, reports of women with venous thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, myocardial infarction (heart attack) and stroke – conditions all related to blood clots – began to surface. Researchers and scientists came to realize that the hormones in birth control pills, particularly the estrogen, induced prothrombotic changes; that is, changes to clotting factors that can promote the formation of blood clots. Drug companies worked to create newer versions of birth control pills with lowered estrogen doses.

Currently women have an array of hormonal contraceptive options from which to choose. Pills with estrogen as low as 10 micrograms and several different types of progestins; pills without any estrogen; the patch; the shot; the ring; an implantable rod; and intrauterine devices with and without hormones are all available by prescription to women regardless of their marital status. These options allow women to work with their health care providers to try to match their unique needs to an effective form of birth control with the fewest possible side effects for them.

Despite advances in formulations and newer delivery systems, there are still side effects to hormonal birth control. The risks of blood clots for women using hormonal birth control remains higher at approximately 1 in 1,000 compared to women not on hormonal birth control at approximately 1 in 5,000. (It is also important to note that the risk of a blood clot during pregnancy is much higher than the risk of one from using hormonal birth control.) Women who are prescribed hormonal birth control should be counseled about the warning signs and symptoms of blood clots and should also be screened for smoking and hypertension, as this can also increase the risk of blood clots.

Women experiencing signs or symptoms should notify their health care provider. An easy way to remember what to look for is the acronym ACHES:

A: abdominal pain
C: chest pain
H: headaches
E: eye problems
S: severe leg pain

While we don’t live in an era where birth control pills are available over the counter (at least not in the United States) as Nurse Trixie (Helen George) first wished for, we are fortunate to have a variety of choices. As midwives, we strive to empower women to make educated decisions about their own bodies and health care. Sadly, this season of Call the Midwife showed us the consequences of unknown risk, whether with thalidomide prescribed to combat nausea or early-generation birth control pills. Season 6 also showed us hope, though, with new babies, new midwives and new relationships. The 1960s keep marching on in Poplar, and I’m only too happy to be along for the ride.

Bethany Domzal Sanders, MSN, CNM, is a member of the Vanderbilt Nurse-Midwives, the clinical practice of the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing located at West End Women’s Health Center.