From the late 1930s until the mid-1950s,my grandmother, Carrie Iverson of Echo, Minnesota, was a midwife. First, she accompanied the town doctor on his rounds to farmsteads, staying on to care for mothers and their newborns. Eventually, she turned her parlor into a rudimentary maternity ward, where she both assisted at births and sometimes handled them herself, as well as providing care for her patients in a house that had no running water, no indoor plumbing, and a stove fueled by cobs. During those Depression-era times, she charged $3 a day for her services, $1 more if special circumstances existed. More babies were born at her house than anywhere else in Yellow Medicine County during those years, according to local newspaper accounts. Things changed when a new town doctor preferred to deliver his patients in the hospitals at Granite Falls or Redwood Falls, a trend that was part of the nation's readjustment after the GIs returned from WWII. Grandma's maternity ward gradually closed, and, along with it, her livelihood disappeared, together with all the gratifications that come from having satisfying and important work. This, of course, was largely unacknowledged in those days before the feminist movement validated women's roles as breadwinners and entrepreneurs. Strong and not given to complaint, Grandma survived by taking in elderly women who needed care in their declining years. The transformation she affected was part of the quiet one of women's work, vastly underestimated for its role in the years of WWII, the Great Depression, and, indeed, our history and present lives in this world.
~Sharon Wikstrom, Crystal, MN