Relationship between doctors, midwives, and religion in a working community
Lupton offers a vivid portrait of Granny Lewis, a midwife in Burlington, North Carolina. Lupton explains that people in the community often called on Granny Lewis and that she often assisted him in the delivery of babies. Moreover, Granny Lewis was an important spiritual figure in the community. His description of this important woman in the community offers a unique lens for understanding how the spirit of religious reform was very much bound to the kind of work he did in offering medical help to working people.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Carroll Lupton, April 2, 1980. Interview H-0028. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Full Text of the Excerpt
- MARY MURPHY:
Oh, you did? I was wondering if there were any midwives down there.
- CARROLL LUPTON:
Yeah, we had a midwife. We called her "Granny." Her
name was Granny Lewis, L-e-w-i-s. And lots of women thought there's no
way in God's world that they could have a baby, if Granny wasn't there.
When I first started in practice, we used to go out and do home
deliveries, we hadn't had any experience doing home delivieries. We got
out training in hospitals, and we just a little bit at a loss about how
to proceed about those things, because it was different.
I'd hear about Granny was going to be there, and I knew she was an old
lady, dipped her snuff. One of these real old-time, old Granny women.
And she knew how to boil water, and I quickly found out that she knew
how to handle a family. She could talk to, and help you along in
managing that poor little girl's emotional approach to delivery. Some of
the doctors would see Granny, and run her off; had
no part of Granny's looks. But I quickly found out that when there's a
prayer meeting in the neighborhood, Granny was there. The Spirit would
get to her, and she would come up, and jump up and down and clap her
hands, and do what the old-timers called "shouting."
She'd get down on her knees with the prayers. She could pray a prayer
that could make one of the graduates of the theological seminary at Yale
University . . . sit up and take notice. 'Course it was the same one
every time, but it was a good one. And she meant it from the bottom of
When the going would get long, and things would get discouraged, and
stuff, I found that Granny was one of the biggest helps you had. And she
wasn't too bad as assistant on deliveries. Lots and lots of times, when
the doctors couldn't get there-or some people were very, very
poor, and they'd been in the habit of using midwives, they never would
call a doctor, just get Granny. And she'd go, and if she got in trouble,
she knew when to call for help. She'd call me two or three times, and
I'd always go out there and help her, and I'd never say anything bad
about her. Never criticize her. If she's needed to be talked to a little
bit, I always waited a week or so later, when she's right by herself,
and nobody to hear.
We would be sitting down, talking about things, and I says, "Oh!
By the way, Granny, Mrs. So-and-so's problem in there, I
believe-been thinking about it a whole lot. Now, if I'd been
there at the same time you were, I probably-I don't
know-I might have done the same thing you did. But now that
I've had the chance to thing about it a little bit, I believe it would
have been better, if it'd been done like
this." Now, Granny would always listen to that, and no
way she'd get mad with me.
But she played a big part in the religious work of that area, as well
as the maternity business.