Ellen Key Harris-Braun, 50, of East Chatham, New York, died at home Friday, October 28, 2016. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, she attended high school in Rochester, New York, and graduated summa cum laude from Yale University with a BA in anthropology. A life-long science fiction reader, she turned her honors thesis on the use of anthropological concepts in science fiction into an application to Del Rey Books, the sci-fi division of Random House. There, in the early 90s (before the Web) she began an email newsletter, including writing advice, that ultimately became the independent Online Writing Workshop, which she and her husband, Eric Eugene Harris-Braun, directed. During her last few years at Random House, she was part of a pioneer group in charge of that publisher’s online projects.

Ellen was a midwife. She trained as a childbirth instructor after the birth of William, her first child, then became a doula after the birth of Jesse, her second. As she began her midwifery studies, she served first as a public member of the Commission for the Accreditation of Birth Centers and then as director of data development for the Midwives Alliance of North America’s division of research. As a Certified Professional Midwife, she attended home births in Massachusetts and New York, working with River and Mountain Midwives and Local Care Midwifery.

She and Eric designed the data collection software for MANA’s statistics website, an ongoing project that recently led to the publication of a landmark study of almost 17,000 planned home births. In 2014 she received the MANA Star Award for her contributions to the profession, and that organization has named its two research awards (one for students, one for practicing midwives) in her honor. In 2015 the Midwifery Institute of Philadelphia, where she had been pursuing graduate studies, established the Ellen Harris-Braun Midwife Scholar Award and presented the first one to Ellen.

Her love of words and her sharp wit – often described as not TSA-approved – were relished by her friends and family and have been passed on to her children. Evidence can be found on her blog, World of the Sick/World of the Well, an account of her illness that is at once informative and, almost to the end, a delight to read (

In addition to her husband and children, Ellen is survived by her mother Kathryn Key Montgomery of New Orleans; her siblings, Anne Montgomery Hunter of San Francisco, Debra S. Hunter of San Rafael, California, Lisa M. Hunter of Madison, Wisconsin, James Paul Hunter of Atlanta, and their father James Paul Hunter of Charlottesville, Virginia; her step-mother, Laurie Randolph Barili Harris of Atlanta; her brother- and sister-in-law Jens and Spee Braun; ten Harris cousins; and beloved members of the Quaker Intentional Village-Canaan. Her father, David Jesse Harris of Atlanta, preceded her in death.

A memorial service will be held at 11 am Saturday, November 12, at the Old Chatham Quaker Meeting House. Her family and friends are grateful to the helping circles that have sustained them and to Rufus Collea, MD, Elizabeth Hanlon, RN, and Jeffrey Arp-Sandel, MD. Memorial gifts may be made to the Ellen Key Harris-Braun Research Fund at the Foundation for the Advancement of Midwifery (

Last Modified on November 3, 2016
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3 thoughts on “Obituary

  1. Cass Brown Capel

    What a lovely tribute to Ellen. Although Ellen and I spoke once (about breast cancer) I feel like I missed knowing a tremendously brilliant, witty and accomplished woman. My heart is breaking for you, Jens, Eric and especially her children, as well as your QIV. I would’ve loved to hear her wit live… I’ve known how much you loved her since the 1990s. What a special woman. May she rest in peace. My deepest condolences to all of you. 💔🙏

  2. *Sigh*. Were losing too many people to this insidious disease.

    I took several photos of her when I was publishing SCIENCE FICTION CHRONICLE, and just found five b&w, one color photo of her, from 1993. I’d be happy to scan them in and send them to you; please contact me.

  3. Latinia Twitty

    As a Birth professional myself I want to send my heartfelt Condolences on the loss of a Amazing Soul .May your place in Heaven be as you served others down here ,With Light and Love xo Well done my Sister well done xo

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