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Remembering Margaret Charles Smith, Legendary Midwife-Delivered Over 3500 Babies

Margaret Charles Smith


Margaret Charles Smith was a legend in her own right. She was famous for having delivered over 3,500 babies, never losing a mother, and having very few neonates.

Smith began her career as a midwife at the age of five. It was unexpected, but it occurred when she was asked to stay with a relative while her husband went to get assistance for the midwife. Young Smith had already “caught” the early arriving baby when the husband and midwife returned.


Beulah Sanders, Smith’s mother, died shortly after her birth in 1906. Her ancestors were nearby farmers, and she was raised by her former slave grandmother, Margaret Charles. She attended a rural grammar school in her hometown of Eutaw, Alabama, but the demands of farming interrupted her education on occasion, and she dropped out at the age of 16 when her grandfather died. Smith kept reading and studying. Farming, which was once a hobby, has now become a way of life.

Smith earned a permit to practice midwifery from the Greene County Public Health Team in 1949. She was one of Greene County’s first official midwives. Even if black women had money at the time, local hospitals were not interested in accepting them as patients.

In rural Alabama, life as a midwife was difficult. Smith frequently had to trek through large fields and wade through rivers in order to deliver up to four infants per night. Many of the mothers she met were exhausted and undernourished. Smith gave birth to twins, breech babies, and premature babies. Most of the time, the mothers were unable to pay anything. Those who could afford to pay often did so with their own produce.

They sometimes paid up to $5 or $10 every birth. Midwives were outlawed in Alabama in 1976. Smith and nearly 150 other black traditional midwives were threatened with imprisonment if they continued to practice as midwives.

Margaret Charles Smith became the first Black American to be granted the keys to her hometown of Eutaw, Alabama, in 1983. She was honored at the first Black Women’s Health Project in Atlanta, Georgia, the same year. She co-wrote “Listen to Me Good: The Life Story of an Alabama Midwife” with Linda Janet Holmes in 1996.

Smith farmed till she died, and she did so for the rest of her life. Smith survived to be 98 years old despite health difficulties (including hypertension and peripheral vascular disease), dying in 2004.



Written by How Africa News

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