Call the Midwife

Call the Midwife : A True Story of the East End in the 1950s   Jennifer Worth

CallTheMidwife

The first pages describing a home birth in detail made me a bit queasy but once past that the warm-hearted and homey narrative held my interest. In a day when few women in the poorer areas of London had the choice of hospital delivery, these braves women on their bicycles saved many lives of both mother and child.

No Running Water in the houses!

No Running Water in the houses!

Almost no provision was made for pre-natal care, and the government provided no aid. Into the gap stepped a religious order of nuns, the Midwives of St Raymond Nonnatus. They opened a care center in the slums of the London Docklands from the 19th century and provided the only available care for most women in the area. During the peak years, these women attended eighty to a hundred births a month! ( After the Pill became available in the 60s, the number dropped  to 4 or 5 a month in 1963.)

Jennifer Worth

Jennifer Worth

Jennifer Worth was not a Catholic, and in fact was very skeptical of Christianity when she began working at the center in the 1950s. At first inexperienced and shocked by the poverty and living conditions in the homes she visits, she soon becomes committed to her job.Often called out in the middle of the night to navigate through the most dangerous areas with her compact medicla bag strapped on her bicycle, she came to care deeply for her patients. It was grueling work, but Jennifer was young and spirited. Her account of the midwives and their patients is interlaced with many amusing personal stories.

23cablestreet

Father Joe

Father Joe

East End London after the Blitz (1950s)

East End London after the Blitz (1950s)

During her time in the Docklands, she comes to deeply respect the nuns and her own idea of God evolves and changes. I enjoyed reading this true story of life in the London slums  in the 50s. It has been made into a British mini-series, apparently, although I haven’t seen it yet!

I also learned about Father Joe, or Joseph Williamson, who devoted his life to rescuing and caring for the prostitutes on Cable Street in the East End. I would like to read more about his life as well as more of Jennifer Worth’s trilogy. Jennifer Worth died of cancer in 2011.

Jennifer Worth in 2002

Jennifer Worth in 2002

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