Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Heritage Lost

Yesterday the world lost a legendary midwife when Margaret Charles Smith died in Eutaw, Alabama at the age of 99. In that wonderful midwife spirit, she delivered her own children, as well as 3500 others. She handled vaginal deliveries that many doctors today won’t touch -- breech, twin – and all in the comfort of women’s homes.

Not that home birth was her patients' first choice. A portrait of her in Mothering magazine said that her patients were often the poor of the county, African-American women who were prevented from getting professional health care because of race and economics. These women were malnourished. They were haggared. Safe to say they were not monitoring their urine for sugar or protein! Yet not one of them died under Ms. Smith’s care.

A biography of Ms. Smith, Listen to Me Good: The Story of an Alabama Midwife, won the 1995 Helen Hooven Santmyer Prize in Women’s Studies. This prize is awarded for the best manuscript on the contributions of women, their lives and experiences, and their roles in society.

To see what Ms. Smith looked like eight years ago, click here. And click here to see her at a Midwives’ conference in Oregon earlier this year.


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