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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Louise Riggsbee Jones, September 20, 1976. Interview H-0085-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Midwifery and health care in a small community

Jones describes how her mother served as the community midwife in Bynum, North Carolina. Although a local doctor was typically present at births, Jones's mother was often called to assist women in delivery. In addition, community members called on her to tend to various illnesses. Her comments are revealing of the ways in which small communities operated and relied on one another for various kinds of health care during the early twentieth century.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Louise Riggsbee Jones, September 20, 1976. Interview H-0085-1. 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 FREDERICKSON:
I wanted to talk to you about your mother's work with sick people. You told us the other day that she spent a lot of time taking care of sick people and . . .
LOUISE RIGSBEE JONES:
Yes, she did.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
. . . visiting sick people and . . .
LOUISE RIGSBEE JONES:
She did her own housework and all, but she'd go. It was mostly at night, you know, when she'd go be with a woman. Sometimes it'd be during the day, but it was mostly at night. And I slept with her, you know. And when she'd have to go at night, I'd sleep with my older sister, and I wouldn't like it a bit in the world because I had to sleep with her and Mama was going out, you know. Somebody was sick. That was me. (Laughs)
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How did they call her or get in touch with her when . . .
LOUISE RIGSBEE JONES:
They'd just come, you know. It was all here in the hill together. They'd just come after her to come go be with her. And she was with a lot of women around here then.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Would she go when they were beginning to deliver a baby?
LOUISE RIGSBEE JONES:
Mm-hm.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Would they come get her when they were in labor?
LOUISE RIGSBEE JONES:
Yeah, when they'd start, they'd come and get her, and she'd stay till it was over with. And she'd carry me the next day when she'd go back to see them, to see the little baby, because I loved babies so much, you know. And she'd put them on a pillow and let me hold them.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
(Laughs) Did she actually deliver the baby most of the time?
LOUISE RIGSBEE JONES:
No, there was usually a doctor there. Now she did. . . . That little boy that I was talking about thinking so much of us, you know . . .
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Yeah.
LOUISE RIGSBEE JONES:
. . . and I come so near to getting a whipping about I didn't want his mother to spank him. They moved across over yonder in the country; they left the hill and moved over there on a farm. Well, she had another child then after that, and he came over here after my mother, to go over there and be with her, she was sick? And he had to go to Pittsboro on horseback after the doctor. Dr. Farthing was the doctor over there then. And that baby was born before the doctor got there. She was the only one there with the woman, but she took care of her. And it got along all right.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was that the only time you remember that happening, that the doctor didn't make it?
LOUISE RIGSBEE JONES:
Yes, that's the only time I remember hearing her tell it. They was usually here with her when one would be born.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How did she start taking care of women when they were delivering babies?
LOUISE RIGSBEE JONES:
Well, I just don't know, because she'd been doing it ever since I could remember.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Had her mother done the same thing?
LOUISE RIGSBEE JONES:
Well, if she had, I don't know it. But my mother, I know she could just hold up under anything. Now if one got hurt, if one got cut real bad, she'd go and fix it up, you know. They didn't take stitches in everything then like they do now, and she'd go and fix it up for them. I think I told you about the little boy falling in the fire and burning his hands so, and she took care of his hands. They were all right.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
With someone who got hurt like that, would the doctor even come?
LOUISE RIGSBEE JONES:
Well, I don't remember, but unless they were bound and compelled to have the doctor, they'd usually get her to go.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
I see.
LOUISE RIGSBEE JONES:
She could just hold up. I remember hearing her tell one time, when she went to dress that child's hands, his father had him and his mother had him, and they both got sick, you know, and had to give him up. She said she told them, she says, "Well, somebody's got to hold him." She says, "I got to fix his hands." You see, there she was, going through with every bit of it, and they were all getting sick, couldn't stand it.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did people ever pay her or give her anything for helping?
LOUISE RIGSBEE JONES:
No. Maybe they'd give her a Christmas present or something after that, but that was all she ever got.