Southern Lay Midwives as Ritual Specialists

  • Molly C. Dougherty


Midwifery in the southeastern United States is closely bound to the feminine reproductive-domestic role and requires specialized ritual, economic, and social behavior. Contemporary Southern lay midwives* are typically elderly black women; all of the midwives discussed here are black and live in rural areas or in towns having populations of less than 10,000 persons. Although the practices and events described here may reflect black-white relations in northern Florida, there is evidence that midwives throughout the United States shared similar experiences when local and state regulations affected their activities (Darlington 1911; Noyes 1912; Kobrin 1966). This presentation examines traditional birth ritual and changes in birth practices and midwifery initiated by state control.


Health Department Silver Nitrate Health Official Home Birth Ritual Specialist 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Molly C. Dougherty
    • 1
  1. 1.University of FloridaGainsvilleUSA

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