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Who are the Granny Midwives?

Are you familiar with Granny Midwives?

In the early years of my journey to become a birth worker I found little to no mention of the granny midwives of the South. In poor and rural communities in the South, Black women, referred to as “Granny Midwives”, provided care to pregnant Black and White folks. They were community healers and part of a legacy of birth workers.

Some very well known midwives are Mary Coley (also known as “Miss Mary”) and Onnie Lee Logan. Miss Mary (pictured to the left) delivered over 3000 babies during her career. The Georgia Department of Health featured Miss Mary in the documentary “All My Babies” While it is scripted, it is an interesting film.

In Onnie Lee Logan’s obituary it stated she “delivered virtually every child born in the predominantly black Mobile suburb of Prichard from 1931 to 1984”. There is a book about Ms. Logan’s life called, “Motherwit: An Alabama Midwife’s Story” (Dutton, 1989).

By the 1970s, births were predominantly attended by doctors (White males) and nurses, in a hospital setting. The very Black women who brought thousands of babies earth side and provided emotional, physical, and spiritual labor to birthing people were being labeled as unsanitary, illegitimate and were actively pushed out of birth work.

The medicalization of birth work, patriarchy and white supremacy led to the demise of granny midwifery. Birth workers today owe so much to the Black women who laid the foundation for birth work and healing. If you are curious, you can read “THE PERSECUTION AND PROSECUTION OF GRANNY MIDWIVES IN SOUTH CAROLINA, 1900-1940” a dissertation by Alicia D. Bonaparte. It is a 285 page document and totally worth the time.

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To conclude, the role of the midwife is instrumental in childbirth, offering unwavering support and expertise to expectant mothers. With their compassionate approach and dedication to care, they ensure that mothers feel empowered and supported throughout the birthing process, creating a memorable and fulfilling experience.

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