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Baby Catcher

Mrs. Beulah Childs Brooks



Mr. Robert "Bob" Brooks


Mrs. Beulah Childs Brooks

               Midwifery is a profession that is at least as old as the Bible. In Exodus 1:15-21,  Shiphrah and Puah were midwives who refused the Egyptian Pharaoh’s order to kill all newborn Hebrew males.

             The profession of midwifery in the Black community has a rich history dating back to the days of slavery. In the early 17th century, the slave trade brought some African slaves to America. Among them were women who brought generations of knowledge about childbirth to the American culture.   These African slave women, along with aboriginal native women of the land, made momentous contributions to midwifery in the early years of the United States’ existence.

               In the years following emancipation, Black women who entered the midwifery profession often did so out of a spiritual calling. These midwives became the matriarchs in our communities and they proudly handed down the skill from mother to daughter, while keeping strong ties to Aboriginal and African-based rituals and customs.

               Mrs. Beulah Childs Brooks is a legacy in her own right. She caught and witnessed the first breath of life of hundreds of babies in the Houston County communities over a period of 60 plus years. “Black and white alike, she birthed them all” according to her last living daughter, Ms. Christine Brooks Bivins.   “That’s a lot of “baby catching”.  Mrs. Brooks was born July 1, 1887 and died May 13, 1988,  just six weeks shy of her 101st birthday. She was born and reared in Houston County, GA to the parentage of Henry Childs and Alice Murph. She practiced her midwifery skills well into her senior years.  Dr. Carl Beard and Dr.  Joe Manning of Warner Robins, GA, worked alongside her for many of her later years.

           She was married to Rev. Robert “Bob” Brooks, Sr. and gave him 15 children. Mr. Brooks was the last person from the African Slavery system in Houston County GA to die at the remarkable age of 120 years old.  He out-lived two of his three wives, and several of his 42 children.  Rev. Brooks also preached at several churches throughout Houston County.

           Paying homage to the other midwives of the Houston County area, I searched them all out on the United States Census of 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930 and 1940.  The names of those midwives are listed below.  I am sure there were probably many more, but unfortunately their names are lost to history, with no documentation left behind of their existence.  To those wonderful women who “caught” so many babies and experienced their first breath of life, I pay reverence to them as well.

NAME                                            BIRTH / DEATH DATE

Lucy Fann     -                     1873 - Jan 27, 1956

Rebecca Jackson -        1808 VA - 72 years old and still catching babies in 1880. She did not show up on any other  

                                                   census records after 1880

Polly Reagan 1812  -      SC - 69 years old in 1880 and still catching babies. She did not show up on any other                                                                    census  records after 1880

Tennessee Spinks -     1808 NC - 72 years old in 1880 and still catching babies. No further info after 1880

Mary Toomer   -               1854 GA - April 24, 1922

Rosa Rooks      -              1860, AL - No further information after 1910

Carrie Hampton  -         1870, GA - Dec. 20, 1933

Emily Cliett   -                  April 1842, GA - No further information after 1910

Martha Davis    -            January 1830, S.C. - 70 years old in 1900 and still catching babies, No further info after 1900

Mary Howell     -             Feb. 1860, GA - March 31, 1938

Victoria Smith  -            1860 GA - Sept 13, 1934

Annie Lee Searcy -      1897, GA – 43yrs in 1940 - – no record of death

Annie Body   -                 1874, GA - 66yrs in 1940 – no record of death

Sally Ford   -                    1879, GA - March 16, 1952

Lucy Allen  -                    April 10, 1872, GA - July 23, 1942

Mary Brown  -                1884, GA - Oct. 10, 1948

Mary Kaigler    -             1891, GA - 49yrs in 1940

Peggy Drew  -                1872, GA - Oct. 21, 1937

Jane Hill    -                      1813, GA- 97 yrs old – does not show up after the 1900 census

Fannie Everett  -          1843, GA - 77 yrs old in 1920 

         These women worked tirelessly to provide care to the pregnant mothers of our black communities. Most of the midwives back in the day, many of whom did not have the ability to read or write, these strong, wise women dedicated their lives to birthing the babies of entire communities and teaching generations of women. Midwifery in the African American community is a legacy.

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