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March 5, 1997

Listen to Me Good:The Life Story of an Alabama Midwife

Author Affiliations

Bryant College Smithfield, RI

JAMA. 1997;277(9):758-759. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03540330080042

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Margaret Charles Smith, a 91-year-old midwife, and Linda Janet Holmes, a long-time friend and historian of Alabama's midwives, have combined their talents to present a fascinating and powerful account of the career of Alabama's oldest living midwife. Born in Greene County, Alabama, in 1906, Margaret Charles Smith attended nearly 3000 births between 1949, when she received her midwife permit, and 1981, when she attended her last birth.

During her distinguished midwifery career, she never lost a mother and rarely lost a baby. Despite her impressive record, as well as those of other midwives, Alabama joined with many southern states in the mid 1970s to enact laws that effectively ended the practice of lay midwifery. In fact, between 1976 and 1981, some 150 black Alabama midwives lost their midwifery permits.

Each of the six chapters of this work begins with a sensitive introduction by Holmes that places the actual words