Miss Margaret: The Story of an Alabama Granny Midwife
Directed by Diana Paul
[2010, Sage Femme, 38 minutes, DVD.]
[Review first published in Midwifery Today Issue 97, Spring 2011, © 2011, Midwifery Today, Inc. Review by Jan Tritten.]
In this amazing film we learn the story of Margaret Charles Smith, one of the last granny midwives from the Southern United States. Miss Margaret practiced for 28 years, until Alabama outlawed midwives in 1976. Lovely gospel music plays to accent the film as Miss Margaret talks of slavery and how she was raised. She talks of segregation and the “pure hell they lived.” As a child, Miss Margaret and her family grew and picked cotton for the white owner of the farm they worked on. She left the fields to “get a job,” because they had nothing and found work as a midwife.
She helped 3500 babies in a county of 10,000! She went to births with others to learn. In other words, she learned by apprenticeship! Miss Margaret had a doctor she could call if necessary. She wouldn’t do a birth unless the woman had prenatal care. People didn’t have money so she would often be paid with eggs, chickens or nothing at all—it was the depression. Margaret and other midwives used herbs at first, but they were eventually banned from doing so. She also used natural remedies such as walking. Miss Margaret’s philosophy was, “to give them kind words when they are hurting…your word is your bond. Do what you say you are going to do.”
At 95 years old Margaret fulfilled the dream of owning a cow, proving it’s never too late to achieve a dream. The ending shot of the film shows Miss Margaret signing her book at the Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA) conference. Her being at that conference was such a high for all of us. It was a privilege to meet this legend. Listen to Me Good: The Story of an Alabama Midwife, a book recounting the story of Miss Margaret’s life, is another great resource about this wonderful midwife.
Reviewer Jan Tritten is the founder and editor in chief of Midwifery Today magazine. She became a midwife in 1977 after the wonderful homebirth of one of her daughters. Her mission is to make loving midwifery care the norm for birthing women and their babies throughout the world.