All My Babies: A Midwife’s Own Story. This 1952 film shows us the work of Mary, an African-American midwife who helps poor rural African-American women to give birth. We get to see her work specifically with two different women: Ida, a woman who lives on a family prosperous farm, and who is well-prepared for the birth of her baby; and Maybelle, a woman who lives on a very poor farm and has miscarried the last two of her pregnancies. Mary works hard and manages to do well with both cases, helping Ida to deliver a big, healthy boy, and helping Maybelle deliver a premie. This is an incredibly heartwarming film that shows the birth process in great detail and under what we would today consider very primitive conditions. Mary takes her job very seriously and scrupulously follows the sanitation rules laid down by the public health doctor and nurse that she works with. She also provides lots of encouragement and emotional support to the new mothers she works with, as well as plenty of education on the importance of pre-natal care and good nutrition. Since this was made in the deep south in the early 50s, there’s a subtle backdrop of the Jim Crow realities black people had to deal with back then, such as the fact that the professional doctor and nurse are both white, the black women studying to be midwives practice on a white baby doll, and all of Mary’s clients seem to live in grinding poverty; even Ida’s house, which is the better of the two, doesn’t have electricity, and is heated with a wood stove (so is Mary’s, in fact). Still, this is a film that treats its subject with respect for the most part. It has tremendous historical interest for portraying childbirth practices in its time and place. And it stimulates lots of compassion for Mary’s clients, as well as respect for Mary and her profession. Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****+. Overall Rating: *****.

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