Women’s History Month: Pioneer Birth Stories

 In researching midwives and birth in the history of the church I found this beautiful tribute to our pioneer sisters in the March 1997 issue of the Ensign by Susan Easton Black. I love to read of our pioneer sister’s courage because it strengthens my determination to live with faith as they did.  I thought I would share it here in honor of Women’s History Month. – Robyn

“Courage an Unfailing Beacon”

by Susan Easton Black

“My Babe Seemed So Beautiful”

The challenges certainly were formidable for Latter-day Saint women who knew they would soon give birth. Facing the dangers of childbirth in extreme conditions without proper supplies and sometimes without proper help must have been frightening to these women. Yet with unflinching courage, they joined the exodus, gave birth, and continued the trek.

“I was informed that on the first night of the encampment … nine children were ushered into the world,” wrote Eliza R. Snow of the exodus. “And from that time, as we journeyed, mothers gave birth to offspring under almost every variety of circumstances except those to which they had been accustomed. … I heard of one birth occurring in the rude shelter of a hut—the sides formed of blankets fastened to poles stuck in the ground, [with] a bark roof, through which the rain was dripping: Kind sisters held dishes and caught the water—thus protecting the mother and her little darling from a shower bath.” 6

Zina D. H. Young, who became the third president of the Relief Society, remembers giving birth in a wagon on the banks of the Chariton River in Iowa. “[We traveled in] the face of the fierce winds of departing winter, and amid rains that fairly inundated the land,” she wrote. “By day we literally waded through mud and water. … I called for a halt in our march. There was but one person with me—Mother Lyman … ; and there on the bank of the Chariton I was delivered of a fine son.”

Almost immediately, they resumed travel. “Occasionally the wagon had to be stopped, that I might take breath,” wrote Zina. “Thus I journeyed on. But I did not mind the hardship of my situation, for my life had been preserved, and my babe seemed so beautiful.” 7

1 thought on “Women’s History Month: Pioneer Birth Stories”

  1. I have contacted the artist, Clark Kelly Price, numerous times about his illustrations for this article. The “kind woman with dishes” painting deeply touches my heart. He has not responded. Do you know the name of this painting, and if the church would reprint it?

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