March is women's history month and, while we are still in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, we're exploring Onslow women in healthcare. To begin this series of posts we'd like to focus first on a topic more uplifting than a pandemic, the role of the midwife in bringing new people into this world.
Until relatively recently women were not allowed medical training and midwives learned their craft from other more experienced women, often passing knowledge from mother to daughter. This knowledge frequently included general medical care, and midwives served their communities as general practitioners, especially in rural areas throughout the nineteenth century. By the turn of the century the professionalization of obstetrics by the male dominated field of medicine led to the decline of midwifery. Largely due to economic reasons the midwife practiced primarily in underserved and minority communities during the early twentieth century.
In Onslow, as in the rest of the country, midwives served their local communities both in childbirth and as doctors. Their position is often listed in the United States Census. In 1910 two women, Mary Leacraft and Rebicca Moore, are listed as Doctors who practice midwifery. Such a title indicates the importance of their role in the community. You can learn more about childbirth in Onslow on our virtual exhibit panel from our health care exhibit here:
You can view other panels from the exhibit on our website: http://www.onslowcountync.gov/1715/History-of-Healthcare
An Ounce Of Prevention Is Worth A Pound Of Cure explores the history of healthcare in Onslow County from the colonial period to the present.