Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Midwifery in Eastern Kentucky

One of my foremothers was a midwife.

Elizabeth Emma Bailey Roe, who was married to John Jack Roe, was a midwife in eastern Kentucky during the mid to later 1800's.  Her signature appears on many of the birth records from that time period.

Perhaps she learned this trade from her own mother, for I have seen her name on some of the birth records, too.

I can't even begin to imagine what it would have been like to be one of the chief persons that expectant mothers would turn to.  She experienced probably every joy and every pain imaginable as she aided the many women looking to her for guidance and assurance.  Her skills would have been valuable, her reputation known widely.

Having at least twelve known children of her own, she was not inexperienced in this field.  She knew pain.  She knew suffering.

One of the births notes that there were triplets born at 7 months.  They lived a short time before passing - two boys and a girl.  How the young mother must have struggled as the midwife guided her along, perhaps saying a prayer under her breath.

Each of my four children were born under tender and clean care in a hospital setting.  I also had four miscarriages, again using the medical professionals and the knowledge and skills they possessed after years of training.  Every need I had was attended to.  Every pain I felt could be dealt with with medicine unheard in this grandmother's time.  I feel extremely fortunate.

Elizabeth Roe, you are a heroine to the people of Carter County, Kentucky!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Driving Miss Ida!

Today is my mother's birthday.  She would have been 98 years old today!

I recently returned from a weekend in Charleston, West Virginia, where I delivered a series of classes at a Stake Family History Conference.  I love the people of West Virginia.  I feel so at home when I visit.

It's where my mother and my three sisters were baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) in 1948.

Mom and my three sisters, Fern, Jean and Betty.

Mom would tell me many stories about West Virginia - the moonshiners, the snake handlers, the Regulators, the coal mines, the company store.  But, something that fascinated me was how she was granted a driver's license, or in her words, an "operator's license".

When going for her test, they placed a glass container filled with water up to a certain point.  Then, they turned her loose on a certain route.  She had to come back with a certain amount of water still in the container or she would fail her test.

Her story didn't really mean anything to me until I was old enough to drive, and was married for a few years.  My husband and children and I were on a trip, and it took us through West Virginia.

I hung on for dear life!  I have never seen so many twists and turns and hairpin curves!!  My husband, who learned to drive in Utah, didn't think twice about it.  But me?  I grew up in Ohio where it is mostly flat with rolling hills.  Those hills were nothing like what we were driving on!

So this weekend, I though of Mom.  We were off the beaten path for awhile in an area not too far from where Mom would have taken her "test". 

Mom is gone.  But through this blog, I'll try to help her stories and her life stay alive...