About Cordelia Hanna-Cheruiyot, Our Executive Director
Childbirth & Lactation Educator | Maternal-Child Health Consultant
Doula & Midwife | Childbirth Activist | Ph.D. Student – Maternal Child Health Psychology
Cordelia’s Family History
Cordelia Hanna-Cheruiyot (nee Cordelia Ellen Satterfield), was born into a life of social activism and a musical family. Early on, Cordelia’s parents instilled in deep compassion for the oppressed and conviction to work for social justice, peace, and freedom for all people, and a love for music. Her parents were Anti-Viet Nam War Activists and folk musicians during the 1960s. Cordelia Ellen Satterfield made her appearance into the world in December 20, 1961 in Lebanon, New Hampshire where her father was attending Dartmouth College. Born to young, idealistic and artistic parents, her father, David Satterfield, was an actor, writer, social theoretician and singer in the Celtic and Folk, Blues, and Country styles. Her mother, Bernella (“Nell”) Levin is a musician, journalist, and progressive political organizer. Her parents were involved in the “New Left”, they were founders of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) on the Indiana University campus in the 1960s and were student leaders in the movement to end the war in Viet Nam. Cordelia’s activist roots started at a tender age. She attended The March on Washington to end the war in Viet Nam pushed in a stroller.
Cordelia’s father was the first in his family to attend college; he was Valedictorian of his class in Columbus, Indiana. He earned a scholarship to Dartmouth College in New Hampshire where he received a Bachelor of Arts English Literature in 1962. Cordelia “cut teeth” on Shakespeare, Beowulf, Chaucer recited by her prolific and erudite father. Cordelia’s dad was also was an aficionado of the folk music of the British Isles and sang these ballads a Capella to Cordelia as a young child. Cordelia grew up singing the folk music of Ireland, Scotland, and the music of rural Appalachia of the early 20th century, inspired by her mother, a Bluegrass and Old-Timey fiddler. Cordelia was also inspired musically by country, folk, and singer/songwriter influences and the English ballads that her father passed down from his mother.
Cordelia’s mother Bernella “Nell” Levin grew up in San Francisco, and was a child prodigy pianist, born of a Latvian-Jewish father Bernard Levin and Swede-Finn mother Ellen Irene Senkas. She has one brother, named Erick Levin (Erick is also a musician, performing under the name Eric London). Bernella (Nell) and Erick’s parents were amateur classical musicians who pushed them towards classical music at an early age. Cordelia’s maternal grandmother came to North America as a stowaway on a ship from Yittermark, Finland and entered the U.S. illegally through Canada and worked as a maid for many years. Ellen and Barney, Cordelia’s grandparents, met at a Socialist Party meeting in Seattle in 1935. Cordelia’s mother, like her father, also excelled in school and graduated from Indiana University majoring in classical piano and History. Cordelia’s grandfather Barney was a plumber for the City of San Francisco and her mother Ellen was a journalist, writing for the Swedish language press. Cordelia’s grandfather worked as a labor union organizer in the 1930s; radical politics was in his blood; his father had fled Latvia after the pogroms, so as not to be consecrated in the Czar’s army. Once in America, Cordelia’s great-grandfather sent his ten children to Anarchist Sunday School. This is where Barney became politicized. Though he only had an 8th grade education (as he had to drop out of school to help support his large family), he was well versed in Marxist ideology; and was a voracious reader, a self-taught man.
In 1960, Cordelia’s 18-year old parents met in the San Francisco neighborhood of North Beach, the Beatnik mecca. David and Bernella were instantly drawn to each other through a shared love of folk music and Beat Poetry, James Dean and Jack Kerouac. They sang together in Washington Square Park, where David said “our voices blended beautifully together”. That summer, David and his buddy hitchhiked back to Indiana from SF and David retuned to school at Dartmouth to finish his degree. Meanwhile, Bernella dropped out of college at UC Berkley and headed to NYC . Then coincidentally–or fatefully– David and Bernella ran into each other again on the street in Greenwich Village, moved in together right away, and soon conceived Cordelia. David and Bernella took part in the Greenwich Village Folk Scene, and were close friends with a promising young musician—none other than Bob Dylan, who held Cordelia as a baby. As legend has it, Bob Dylan asked Cordelia’s father, “What’s his name, Dave?” to which her father replied “It’s a girl, Bob, and her name is Cordelia.” David and Bob became close friends. Not only were their left-wing politics aligned, but both were inspired by Woody Guthrie, John Steinbeck, and the like. Bob Dylan and David Satterfield were both good students of all styles of music from Hank Williams to British and Celtic folk, to Blues greats like Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson. Cordelia’s dad and Dylan knew all these styles, and studied them. David, being a poor boy from Indiana, grew up among Black folks, and his ancestors hailed from Scotland and Ireland, like many Appalachian folk musicians. “Dylan loved Satterfield’s singing and thought he was a stellar talent. Dylan probably knew he was the real thing: that was why he sang so good”, said Bernella. (Listen to “Bulldozer Blues” written and sung by David Satterfield on Homegas, 1968).
After Cordelia’s father earned his Bachelors in English Literature from Dartmouth College, the family moved to Bloomington, Indiana so he could pursue a graduate degree in English Literature at Indiana University. Cordelia’s mother took a Bachelor of Science in History and classical piano. At Indiana University during the 1960s, David and Bernella Satterfield were student leaders in SDS, peace activists and Anti-Viet Nam war protesters. Cordelia’s childhood home was filled with live acoustic music and lively political debate all hours of the day and night. The roots of Cordelia’s social activism were planted early; she was pushed in a stroller on the March on Washington to end the war in Viet Nam as a toddler. Her parents brought her to meetings organizing protests against the war in Viet Nam and the photographs depicting the horrors of war were branded into her brain at a very young age.
Cordelia’s parents moved to San Francisco in 1970, and soon separated (Cordelia’s father died at age 59 in November, 2000, after a long struggle with alcoholism).
An original flower child, Cordelia grew up in a communal environment in Bloomington, Indiana, Aspen, Colorado and San Francisco. She attended “free schools” in San Francisco, and at 10 years old, hitchhiked from San Francisco to Zihuantanejo, Mexico with four other children and two women chaperones (without her mother) and lived on the beach for 7 months as part of a “school field trip.” But that is another story altogether….
For some mysterious reason (past life?), Cordelia was fascinated with babies and birth even as a young child. At the age of six, she drew a picture of a woman having a baby while sitting upright in a chair, with a female helper behind, and a female helper bowing before the mother, ready to deliver the baby who is pictured inside the mother. (This “Classic Pose” –with a helper behind the mother, and a helper in front of the mother, and the birthing woman in an upright posture, is found in art and artifacts of birth from around the globe, in all cultures and eras). In addition, while living in Colorado in the 1970s, Cordelia was exposed to homebirth as an 11 year old girl, which obviously made a significant impression upon her choice to give birth to her children at home with a midwife.
Cordelia’s middle childhood was spent in the backseat of a 1958 Chevy Panel Truck traveling to Bluegrass Festivals throughout the Southern states with her mom, a Bluegrass fiddler, and stepdad, a Bluegrass banjo player, and in the backstage of music venues while her parents performed. Cordelia’s mother Nell Levin is still a grassroots progressive community organizer, founder and former executive director of Tennessee Alliance for Progress, and a songwriter and musician (fiddle and piano) who lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband, Michael August. They perform together as a duet, continuing Nell’s legacy of music and activism.
Adolescence and Early Adulthood
In her high school years, Cordelia did homework while listening to her parents’ band rehearsals in her Livingroom. This is how she learned to sing harmony parts by repeating the musical phrases. In Cordelia’s family home, there were always musicians jamming in her livingroom and activists debating politics til the wee hours of the morning. Engulfed in a sea of music from her womb-time, and immersed in the musician’s lifetstyle throughout childhood, Cordelia “rebelled” and decided to study theatre instead.
In her teens and early twenties, Cordelia wrote poetry, learned all the songs of Joni Mitchell and read great American playwrights like Sam Sheppard and Tennessee Williams. She studied Acting, Vocal Music and Modern Dance, performed in community productions in Bloomington, Indiana, and studied at NYU’s Experimental Theatre Wing and with Ryzard Cieslak, Jerzy Grotowski’s protégé from the Polish Theatre Lab in 1981. Cordelia graduated from Indiana University Bloomington with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre and Dance in 1986.
In 1983, at age 21, Cordelia Satterfield married her high school prom date Hugh Hanna. In the early and mid-1980s Hugh and Cordelia were involved with Werner Erhard’s organization, Erhard Seminars Training (est), and with the Breakthrough Foundation’s Youth at Risk Program, where they worked with gang youth. The couple settled in Los Angeles in 1986 and Hugh became a union set builder in Hollywood. Cordelia planned to pursue a career in the Theatre and film industry, but the best laid plans of mice and (wo)men can change unexpectedly. After giving birth to their daughter, becoming a professional actress was not the career Cordelia chose to pursue. Just twenty months after the birth of their first child, Cordelia gave birth to a son, Dylan Forest Hanna. Soon after, she launched her career as a Childbirth Professional.
Becoming A Childbirth Activist
It was through the life-transforming experiences of giving birth at home that Cordelia discovered her true calling: to become a birth educator, doula, midwife and childbirth activist. As a result of the miraculous birth experience of her first child, Cordelia was inspired to help expectant mothers avoid coercion, and become empowered through knowledge as she had. Cordelia found that all of her skills were put to good use in the childbirth profession – her training in theatre, writing and dance became a real asset in her new profession.
Cordelia became certified as a Childbirth Educator in 1990 with Informed Homebirth/Informed Birth and Parenting (IH/IBP) and launched her career as a Childbirth Activist. Cordelia certified as a Birth Assistant with The Association for Labor Assistants and Childbirth Educators (ALACE), and became a trainer for the organization. As a Childbirth Activist, Cordelia helped to bring about the legalization of direct-entry midwifery in California in 1993. As the Director of The Midwives Childbirth Awareness Project (MCAP) of California Association of Midwives (CAM), she helped to ratify the National Organization for Women’s (NOW) resolution expanding the definition of reproductive freedom to include Choices in Childbirth–including the Midwifery Model of Care, in 1994.
Starting in 1991, Cordelia began attending births as an apprentice to midwives while pursuing requirements to become a California Licensed Midwife.
Cordelia also taught childbirth education in a Medi-Cal clinic for seven years, where she came to learn about public health. Cordelia provided labor doula support for women giving birth in the hospital and taught childbirth classes and assisted local midwives at homebirths and at a birth center.
Along with two midwives in 1993, Cordelia co-founded Wholistic Midwifery School of Southern California, for the purpose of establishing a direct-entry midwifery school in Los Angeles. In 2010, the organization changed its name to Association for Wholistic Maternal and Newborn Health.
In 2005, after 22 years of marriage, Cordelia and Hugh divorced. Hugh continues to work as a set builder in the movie industry in Los Angeles.
Becoming A Public Health Professional
From 2002-2012, Cordelia Hanna worked for the Black Infant Health Program a state-funded program to reduce perinatal health disparities among African-Americans living in Pasadena, California.
Cordelia spearheaded a Community-Based Doula Program and Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program at the Pasadena Public Health Department and developed a childbirth education curriculum addressing an unmet need among Pasadena’s low income families and establishing the very first community-based Doula program in Los Angeles county serving low-income persons of color.
In 2006, Cordelia Hanna married John Cheruiyot, a man from the Kalenjin tribe of the Rift Valley of Kenya, East Africa They divorced in 2016.
Cordelia Hanna attended Loma Linda University School of Public Health earning her Masters in Public Health in Health Education and Promotion/Maternal Child Health in 2008 and becoming a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) through the National Commission on Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC). She is currently pursuing a doctorate in maternal-child health psychology from Walden University.
Cordelia served as the Co-Chair of the Evidence in Action Committee of The Coalition for Improving Maternity Services (CIMS), where she worked on issues of informed consent and refusal in maternity care, and in 2007 traveled to London to participate as a delegate and volunteer at the first Women Deliver global conference on gender equality, reproductive rights and maternal mortality. After earning her Master’s Degree, Cordelia resigned from the Black Infant Health Program and launched The Association for Wholistic Maternal and Newborn Health. The organization changed its name to Happy Mama Healthy Baby Alliance in 2020.
Becoming Executive Director of AWMNH
In 2010, Cordelia assumed leadership of Wholistic Midwifery School of Southern California DBA The Association for Wholistic Maternal and Newborn Health (AWMNH), and obtained a 2-year grant through California Community Foundation for Hospital Improvements and Nursing Education. From 2011-2013, Cordelia worked along with colleagues to increase awareness of the Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative (MFCI) developed by The Coalition for Improving Maternity Services (CIMS) in Los Angeles County. AWMNH established the Mother-Friendly Childbirth Consortium of Los Angeles County, promoting mother-friendly care in the hospital, clinic, and community setting, and encouraging agencies to use the MFCI as a policy and planning tool to achieve objectives for maternal and infant health and improve quality of care.
In 2019, the organization received a grant from Health Net to launch a community-based doula program providing African-American/Black Doulas for African-American/Black families in Los Angeles county.
As a Health Education Consultant, Cordelia developed several courses for MCH health professionals to increase knowledge of evidence-based maternity care.
Cordelia is passionate about increasing the numbers of women of color in the midwifery and Doula professions, and forwarding the midwifery profession and the midwifery model of care through public health in order to address ethnic disparities in maternal and infant health. Cordelia believes that access to safe and supported woman-centered childbirth for all is a human right. As such, she mentors young women and men who want to make a difference in the lives of childbearing families. As Executive Director and CEO of Happy Mama Healthy Baby Alliance, Cordelia provides leadership to health professionals to integrate mother-centered care and community health promoter models into public health programs in Los Angeles County in order to achieve goals for maternal and infant health. Happy Mama Healthy Baby Alliance achieves this mission through their Community-Based Doula Program and a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program.
Cordelia continues her professional development, receiving training and coaching in leadership skills, project management, team-building, mastery of communication, through Landmark Education. She is also a member of the Agape International Spiritual Community. She continues her lifelong love of learning by attending Walden University, where she is pursuing a doctorate in maternal-child health psychology. This PhD in Psychology specialization focuses on the intersection of psychology and health. Coursework explores health psychology, biopsychology, psychoneuroimmunology, and how to change health behavior.
Cordelia’s home-born, family bedded, breastfed and attachment-parented children are now bright and capable young adults. Daughter Aria graduated with her BA in Child and Adolescent Development from San Francisco State University, and a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy at Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena, CA. She is currently pursuing licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) , with a specialty in school-age children. Son Dylan works in manufacturing in Indiana and is a stepfather to two daughters, Ruby and Jade, and a son, named Finn Robert Hugh Hanna born August 3, 2020. Cordelia loves being a grandmother and adores her beautiful grandchildren.
Cordelia Hanna, MPH, CHES, ICCE, CLE, CBA
Masters in Public Health (Health Education and Promotion/Maternal Child Health)
Certified Health Education Specialist (NCHEC)
Certified Childbirth Educator (ICEA)
Certified Lactation Educator (CAPPA)
Certified Birth Assistant (ALACE)
Doctorate in Psychology – Maternal-Child Health, Walden University (in progress)
Cordelia is available for trainings, presentations, media interviews and consultations to individuals and organizations.
HOW TO REACH CORDELIA
Telephone: 626.388.2191 ext. 1 or (323) 631-7990 (cell)