Grandmother’s Hands


Grandmother’s Hands

March 2, 2018

For Women’s History Month, we would like to pay tribute to our grandmother, Dollie Harris Brittian, whom God used as a Midwife to touch the lives of numerous families during the 20th century.

As Bible scholars know, midwifery goes back to Biblical times. In Exodus1:15-21, Shiphr ah and Puah were midwives who refused the Egyptian Pharaoh’s order to kill all newborn Hebrew males. In addition, according to  an article entitled “African American Nurse-Midwives: Continuing the Legacy,” by AnitraEllerbyBrown and Trickera Sims, in the early 17th century, the slave trade brought many African slaves to America. Among them were women who brought generations of knowledge about childbirth to the American culture. African midwives handed down the skill of midwifery from mother to daughter while keeping strong ties to African-based rituals and customs.

Our grandmother, Dollie Harris Brittian, was born in 1884 in Greenville, Georgia. With the assistance of her mother and aunts (who were midwives), she gave birth to eleven healthy children and was affectionately called Mama Dollie.
Mama Dollie’s mother handed down the skill of midwifery to her daughters. Consequently, our grandmother was trained and licensed by the Medical and Health Board of the State of Georgia to serve as a midwife in 1904.

Mid wives held their communities together by maintaining the African American traditions that solidified families and built community love. They also served as advocates, spiritual healers and liaisons between the health care system and their communities.

Wearing a white uniform and carrying a black medical bag, Mama Dollie traveled throughout the rural parts of Georgia guiding the births of both black and poor white women. She taught mothers the proper preparation of baby
food, breast feeding and postpartum care.

She prayed for all the children. One of her favorite sayings was, “Oh Lord Have Mercy On My Children.” After a successful delivery, she would pray and singher favorite song:

“Jesus loves the Little Children,
All the Children of the World;
Red and Yellow, Black
and White,
They are precious in HIS
Jesus loves the Little Children
of the world.”

Our grandmother was a proud Black woman who understood the importance of children having toys to which they could relate. Retail stores at that time did not sell Black dolls. She observed little girls loving and adoring White dolls and resenting their Black skin. As a hobby, she made dolls out of corn cob. She used the corn silk for hair and designed dresses for these dolls. Mama Dollie painted the dolls black and gave them to these girls.

Mama Dollie guided so many mothers during childbirth. We are blessed to have had a godly midwife whose hands were the first to touch our bodies as we entered this world.

Today , Certified Nurse -Midwives are educated in the disciplines of nursing and midwifery. They are trained to work in hospitals, birth centers, health departments, clinics and home birth settings. As a result, they continue the legacy of the midwives by bringing quality care to women and newborns whose need is greatest. They serve low income families, Medicaid recipients, teen mothers and the uninsured.

In recognition of Women’s History Month, congratulations and much love to all Midwives who have succeeded against all odds.

Frances Shackelford-Howell
Hettie Warren

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