In 1953, there were 257 licensed midwives in the Bahamas. In fact, there were more licensed midwives than there were nurses and doctors in the Bahamas General Hospital. One name on the list, Rosalie E. Price, East Street, Nassau, may be the grandmother of sprinter Thomas Augustus “Tommy” Robinson, MBE. The same Tommy Robinson for whom the sports centre stadium, in Nassau, is named after. If indeed the same person, then midwife Rosalie E. Price of East Street, in 1953, would have been about 92 years old. Once a midwife, always a midwife.

In 1950, infant mortality in the Bahamas was 38.68 per 1,000 lives births. In 1951, it was 38.20; 37.23 in 1952; 36.28 in 1953; and 35.35 in 1954. In 2018, infant mortality in the Bahamas was 5.77 per 1,000 live births.

In mid 20th century, many births, in the Bahamas, happened at home. This was especially true on the Family Islands. Remote settlements, with few communication lines, were heavily dependent on midwife services, not just during childbirth, but throughout the entire pregnancy.

Childbirth and it’s resulting pain was still a matter of contention among professionals in the mid 20th century. Many were advocating that experiencing pain in childbirth was necessary in order to firmly mark the event in the woman’s mind. Post childbirth complications were attributed to the woman simply being weak.

There was also the mindset that less civilised or evolved women, felt less pain than highly civilised, highly evolved women. Negro women, for centuries were considered less civilised and therefore did not feel pain like women of other races.

Death in childbirth, for the mother and baby, was altogether too common. Midwives carried only basic medical skills. Midwives could not perform complex surgery, like caesarians, during difficult childbirths. They couldn’t administer pain medication either; only a nurse or a doctor could do this.

For women, childbirth was the most precarious moments of their lives. It was the moment when simple infections, excessive blood loss and prolonged labour often meant death, or life long disability for child and mother.

(The Daily Oklahoman, Tuesday, 26 May 1936)

OFFICIAL LIST OF LICENSED MIDWIVES IN THE BAHAMAS JANUARY 1953

(Official Gazette of the Bahamas February 2, 1953)
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