We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Midwives thrived when childbirth was more of a spiritual experience than a science experiment. The exhibit “Reclaiming Midwives: Pillars of Community Support” documents the tradition of African-American women helping other women give birth from the slavery era through today. The highlight is the photo essay of Mary Francis Hill Coley, a Georgia midwife who delivered some 3,700 babies. The 1952 photographs show the range of Coley’s duties, which included sitting with the mother in a doctor’s office, folding towels in preparation for the birth, and attending the new baby’s christening. “Miss Mary” and other midwives viewed their job as a spiritual calling and performed it with dignity and grace. Extending that grace to the pre-epidural mother-to-be, the midwives used a collection of herbal remedies—such as black haw to ease pain and May apple to induce labor. The exhibit is on view from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (see City List for other dates) at the Smithsonian Institution’s Anacostia Museum & Center for African-American History and Culture, 1901 Fort Place SE. Free. (202) 633-4820. (Rachel Beckman)